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Playing Safe

It's of paramount importance for parents to know what sorts of toys are the safest and the most beneficial for kids.

Infants don't have a fully developed visual system at birth, but it becomes more refined over time. Few things stimulate a child's visual development more easily than playing, which encourages hand-eye coordination and a clearer understanding of spatial relationships. Ideal toys for stimulating a baby's vision in his or her first year include mobiles with geometric patterns or bright contrasting colors and activities with detachable and changeable objects, puppets and balls. In the first three months of life, babies can't fully differentiate between colors, so high contrast black and white pictures of things like shapes and simple patterns are particularly conducive to stimulating visual development.

Because kids spend a great deal of time playing with their toys, it is vital to make sure their toys are safe for both their overall health, and their vision. A toy that is not age appropriate is often not a great choice. Hand-in-hand with age appropriateness is to make sure that the toy is developmentally appropriate, too. Despite the fact that toy companies mention targeted age groups on toy packaging, as a parent, you still need to be responsible, and prevent your son or daughter from playing with toys that may lead to eye injury or vision loss.

Toys must be well-made, without details that might fall and wind up being choked on. And if they're painted, make sure it's not with anything that might be toxic. Children tend to horse around, but they need to learn to keep an eye out for flying objects and swings or even swinging ropes that may hit and cause harm to eyes. If the eye does get hit, it can easily lead to a corneal abrasion, or a popped blood vessel. Even if there's no apparent injury, the impact can show up decades after the event, in the form of something as serious as glaucoma.

All soft toys are best if machine washable, and, especially when it comes to smaller children, without any tiny pieces can easily come off, like buttons, sequins or bows. Avoid toys that have points or edges or any sharp parts for a little kid, and check that things with long sticks, like pony sticks or toy brooms have rounded handles. Always pay attention when they play with those kinds of toys.

If your child is under 6, be wary of toys with flying parts, like slingshots. Always pay close attention with those kinds of toys. On the other hand, if you have teens who play with chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always make sure they wear safety goggles.

When you're next shopping for a holiday or birthday, take note of the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Make sure that there's no danger posed to your child.