No doubt, discovering and playing with new toys is exciting for both kids and adults. Kids like toys because they’re fun! Playing with toys is their way of picking up skills to prepare them for the real world. To properly raise a child, parents need to encourage them to play. But some toys that look really fun can pose a serious risk of eye injuries. Toys can also be a great source of danger. It's hard to believe that a simple children's toy could cause harm, but accidents happen all the time.
In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, roughly a quarter of a million children are seen in the nation's hospital emergency departments each year due to toy-related injuries. Prevent Blindness America states that children incur approximately 11,000 toy-related eye injuries each year. Nearly half of these injuries are to the head and face, and many are eye injuries. These eye injuries can range from a mild corneal abrasion (scratch to the eye surface) too much more serious injuries such as a traumatic cataract, corneal ulcer, or a retinal tear or detachment.
What can you do to help keep your child's eyes safe?
The following list of toys is responsible for the most eye-related injuries in children each year. Start by supervising your child while he or she is playing with one of the following types of toys that pose a high risk of causing eye injuries.
1. Toy Weapons
Any toy that shoots or propels a small object can potentially cause significant damage to the eyes. Lightsabers, wands, and swords can have sharp edges and cause eye trauma. Dart guns, paintball guns, BB guns and airsoft rifles launch objects that can cause lacerations, increased eye pressure, cataracts and vision loss.
You might think these soft projectiles would pose little or no risk, but toy guns of this type can shoot up to distances of 75 feet, and the darts move at speeds fast enough to cause a serious eye injury — especially when used at close range indoors.
Projectile toys are never safe, so avoid purchasing toy guns for children. If you buy any toy that could be used as a weapon, accompany the gift with proper eye protection and require that your child wear the safety glasses when using the toy.
2. Toys That Launch Water Balloons
Water balloons can cause serious blunt trauma to the eye that can cause a retinal detachment and permanent vision loss. Even toy guns that shoot a stream of water can cause serious eye damage, especially when used at close range.
3. Toy Sporting Equipment
Playing sports accounts for many eye injuries in children every year. If your child participates in a sport, appropriate eye protection is imperative for their safety. Eye injuries commonly occur during sports such as basketball, baseball, and racquet sports. Sports-related eye injuries include blunt, penetrating, and radiation injuries.
If you buy sports gear or equipment for your child, ensure that he or she is using proper eye protection and head protection. Always supervise your child outside during practice and play time, and do not allow sporting equipment indoors.
4. Toy Swords, Wands, and Fishing Poles
Young children do not necessarily have the best control over long objects, such as toy swords, wands or fishing poles. When an object is secured to the end of such a toy, the risk of eye injury can be even greater. Don’t get caught off guard by how easy it is for the end of a long object to end up in a playmate’s eye!
Explosive devices are best left to adults to activate. Children usually underestimate the dangers of fireworks. Even small explosions near the eye can cause devastating injuries and burns. If your child must set off fireworks, always insist on the use of protective eyewear or safety goggles.
6. Aerosol-Propelled String
The chemicals in these products can cause eye irritation and a type of pink eye called chemical conjunctivitis. When used at close range, aerosol string also can cause a corneal abrasion that could lead to serious eye infections.
7. Laser Pointers
Laser pointers (as well as high-powered LED flashlights) should never be used as toys. Unfortunately, children may have difficulty understanding this. Many kids enjoy playing laser or flashlight tag. The problem is that pointing a high-intensity laser beam into someone’s eye can cause serious eye injuries, including permanent vision loss.
A flashlight is a safer alternative to a laser pointer and poses less risk to the eyes. Remind kids never to shine any type of light into the eyes.
Keeping Your Children Safe
Check for the age limit on the packaging of the toy. Some toys are meant only for kids above a certain age, and this disclaimer must be taken seriously, especially, when the toy contains small pieces or components. There is a potential choking hazard when children put these in their mouth.
If you are buying toys for grandchildren or the children of other relatives or friends, ask for suggestions from the child's parents. Discuss any toys you are thinking about purchasing before doing so, to make sure the child's parents are okay with the type of toy you are considering.
Look closely at your child's toys. Examine toys for sharp edges. Safety regulations prohibit sharp points in new toys that are designed for use in children under eight years of age. Don't be too cheap. Be careful with inexpensive toys in the budget aisle. Toys with sturdy construction are less likely to shatter or break into small, sharp pieces.