Few things are more enjoyable than watching childrens’ faces light up when they open a new toy. And while we all love being the one responsible for giving that joy, none of us wants to be associated with the increased risk of eye injuries. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 250,000 children are sent to the emergency room every year due to toy-related injuries; nearly half these injuries are to their heads, and very often to their eyes. Fortunately, these accidents can be easily prevented. All it takes is a little research and conversation to make the right choice and arrive with that safe, but fun, gift.

Most toy-related injuries happen when a child is playing with a product that isn’t age appropriate or well manufactured. However, keep in mind that the recommended age range on a toy’s label is fairly arbitrary—only a child’s caregiver really knows if he or she is ready to play with it. The bottom line is: think carefully about the individual child you’re buying for first, and learn a little about each item before making a decision.

Here are 6 tips to guide you toward safe—and delightful—toy purchases this year:

  1. If you’re shopping for someone else’s child, talk to the parents first for recommendations and get approval of your choices before you buy.
  2. Whenever possible, shop in stores instead of online. It’s much easier to get a sense of a toy’s safety in person than on screen. Check for parts that might easily break off, sharp or rough edges, and paint that seems likely to peel or flake off. And, of course, make sure the paint is non-toxic.
  3. Toys that shoot projectiles like airsoft, BB guns, dart guns, slings, and arrows are strongly discouraged for any age group and we suggest parental approval first. If you do choose to buy these kinds of toys, give them only to children older than age six who have caregivers willing to supervise their use. And why not toss in a cool pair of safety goggles for them, just in case?
  4. The FDA advises to never purchase high-powered laser pointers for children. The wattage of these devices can potentially cause severe damage to retinas within just seconds of exposure. (In other words, reserve laser pointers for your favorite cat, not your favorite kid.)
  5. Stuffed, plush toys should be machine washable and if you’re buying for younger children, make sure they don’t come with tiny pieces that pull off like buttons or ribbons.
  6. Still not sure if you’re making a safe choice? Just go to org for a quick search of their worst toys list, and see if that flashy gizmo in your hands should be put back on the shelf.

Most importantly, don’t stress! There are plenty of wonderful, high quality toys for you to choose from. And as you watch that special little one eagerly unwrap your thoughtful gift, you can relax knowing that you’re contributing to their development of visual skills, hand-eye coordination, pattern recognition and—best of all—tons of new memories.

Dr. Robert Schultze
Dr. Robert Schultze
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Schultze received his medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in 1994, where he was distinguished with the Lamport Biomedical Research Award. Upon completion of ophthalmology residency at Albany Medical College in 1998, Dr. Schultze elected to further his education with one additional year of specialty fellowship training in Cornea, External Disease and Refractive Surgery at the Albany Medical College.Dr. Schultze has been appointed Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of Cornea, Cataract, and Refractive Surgery at the Albany Medical Center Department of Ophthalmology where he teaches medical students, residents, and fellows the latest diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. He also serves as Ophthalmology Residency Program Director, Director of Medical Student Education in Ophthalmology, and Director of the Cornea Fellowship Program.Dr. Schultze is Medical Director and a founding partner of his medical practice, Cornea Consultants of Albany. He also serves as Medical Director of TLC Laser Eye Center as well as the Lions Eye Bank at Albany and has served on the Northeastern Association for the Blind at Albany’s Board of Directors.

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