Toys and Accidental Eye Injuries in Children
Most childhood accidents occur in the home and many sadly involve children’s toys. Young children spend most of their waking moments with their toys and you cannot always assume that a toy is safe, as past recalls have clearly shown. Thousands of children each year suffer serious eye injuries and even blindness from toys.
When choosing a new toy, the first thing you should look at is the label. The Consumer Safety Product Commission lays out various guidelines for toys, for example, the toy must indicate what ages it is suitable for. If there is a possibility of choking, a toy must be labeled as being only for children over the age of 3, and the label must give a specific reason for the warning. The age range on the label is also a useful guideline for the physical and mental ability a child will need to play with and enjoy the toy.
If you have children of different ages, the older children's toys should be kept separate, as they may not be suitable for the baby of the family. Also, always clear the floor after play, as falling is the most common way to stab or injure an eye.
Here are some good common sense guidelines:
- Read all labels and instruction supplied with the toy
- Avoid toys that propel small parts
- Mend or throw away any toys which are broken or damaged
- Buy toys that are not likely to break and create dangerous shards
- Look for the ‘ASTM’ symbol - the safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials
- Check to make sure that the toy is right for your child's stage of development
- Avoid toys which have sharp edges or dangerous points
- Remember that guns which fire small pellets and birdshot are NOT toys
- Always be nearby to supervise play, especially craft projects which require scissors and glue
Early Child Safety
Children are born with their vision very poor, but it improves and develops as they grow. Newborn babies can only see objects close up; toddlers are often farsighted and some school age children need eyeglasses. Whatever stage your child is at, stimulation through play is an essential part of growing up.
Always follow the standard guidelines for toy safety, but remember that children develop at different rates and you know your child best. For example, toys with small pieces are usually labeled for 3 years and older but if your 4 year old still puts things in their mouth, these toys are not appropriate, despite the label. Make sure that toys are sturdy enough to withstand reasonable play and double check that finishes, paints and varnishes are non-toxic and will not peel or flake.
Stuffed toys should be machine-washable, and those intended for small children should not have any small parts that could come off, such as plastic eyes or buttons.
Toys to Avoid
Make sure that any toys with long handles, such as a broom or pony stick, have rounded handles. These should be supervised as they can become nasty weapons during a struggle and eyes are always vulnerable.
Toys which shoot objects into the air such as slingshots, dart guns or arrows are not suitable for children younger than 6 years of age and then should be supervised during play. Older children may have fun with a chemistry set or woodworking tools, but provide them with safety goggles as a condition of play. Responsible practices pay dividends in the long run. Many accidents can be prevented by using protective eyewear.
Think Safety First
Follow these guidelines and avoid some common problems which may lead to injury or tragedy:
Toys that shoot plastic objects or flying pieces can easily cause an eye injury.
Watch for sharp corners which unstable toddlers may fall upon.
Children under 3 can choke if small parts get stuck in their mouth or windpipe.
Avoid latex balloons as they can easily be swallowed, causing choking.
Keep a careful check under sofas and beneath cushions for coins, marbles, pen tops and buttons which can all be hazardous to young children.
Avoid bean bag chairs which can easily be ripped, producing thousands of small beans and pellets.
Falling or Drowning
Riding toys should be kept away from stairs, traffic and even shallow pools of water.
Make sure the child can control the toy, and always be nearby to assist.
Suffocation and Strangulation
Discard any plastic wrapping from a new toy. It can be enough to suffocate a small child.
Any ribbon or string longer than 7 inches can be enough to strangle an infant, particularly if it is tied to a crib or playpen.
Long objects can be deadly if they get around a child’s neck, such as a rope or cord.
Loose clothing and hoods can get hooked up or tangled, causing strangulation.
If you are aware that many innocent-looking everyday objects can possibly cause injury then the battle is almost won. Seeing and preventing an accident is far better than hoping for the best after an accident has happened. Think safe, buy safe and play safe at all ages.
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