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Playing Safe

It's of paramount importance to know how to choose toys that are the safest and the most beneficial for kids.

Infants are born with only semi-formed vision. Few things stimulate a child's visual development more easily than toys that involve hand-eye coordination and learning about spatial relationships. The best toys that stimulate a baby's vision in their first year of life include mobiles with geometric patterns or colors, and activity mats that have interactive or removable objects, puppets and balls. Between the ages of 0-3 months, babies can't fully see color, so simple black and white shapes and patterns are most engaging.

Because children spend so much time engaged in play with their toys, moms and dads must be sure that their toys are safe for their eyes as well as their overall safety. Children should be given toys that are made for their specific age group. And up there with age appropriateness is to make sure that toys are suited to their developmental stage. Even though companies specify targeted age groups on packaging, you still need to make the call, and be attentive, so that your son or daughter avoids playing with anything that might be damaging in any way.

Toys should always be well-made, and not have parts that will break and wind up being choked on. And if they're painted, make sure it's not with a product toxic or harmful. Kids tend to roughhouse at times, but they need to look out for balls and swings or even swinging ropes that may hit and cause harm to eyes. If something like that does happen, it can lead to a corneal abrasion, or a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage, which is a popped blood vessel. And even when it seems as if there wasn't any harm, the result of the hit can appear decades later, as something as serious as glaucoma.

All soft toys should be machine washable, and, for younger children, free of tiny parts to pull off, like buttons or ribbons. Steer clear of toys with edges or any sharp parts for a little kid, and be sure that long-handled toys such as pony sticks or toy brooms have rounded handles. Closely watch toddlers when they play with such toys.

For kids younger than 6, stay clear of toys with flying parts, like arrows. Always pay attention with those kinds of toys. Whereas, for teens who enjoy chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they have safety goggles.

So the next time you're considering a special gift for your son or daughter, take note of the manufacturers' advice about the intended age range for the toy you had in mind. Be certain that there's no danger posed to your child's eyes - even if it looks like lots of fun.

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