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By Dr. William Benevento

As we’re immersed in the toy-buying season, it can be difficult to know what is safe and appropriate for different age groups. These guidelines can help you buy smart and keep eye safety top of mind.

Baby toys

Babies like toys that stimulate their senses, especially those that are brightly colored and lightweight for handling. They should not have sharp edges, points, or pieces that can be swallowed. Everything should be made of non-toxic materials. Floating bath toys and stacking toys are always favorites.

Toddler toys

Toddlers need toys for active play such as balls or a wagon. Blocks and simple puzzles are good at this age, as are picture books.

Preschool toys

Preschoolers like to use their imaginations. Dolls, teddy bears, toy telephones, planes, cars and boats are all appropriate for this age group. Larger outdoor toys such as a swing set or tricycle encourage balance and fitness. Board games, word and matching games, construction sets, modeling clay and other art supplies help with visualization and memory skills. Books are always appreciated, especially if someone reads along with them.

K-12 toys

School-age kids ride bicycles (with helmets!), roller skate, jump rope, and play sports. Don’t forget that sports equipment should also include protective eyewear. Sports-related eye injuries account for about 40,000 eye injuries annually. Science, modeling, and craft kits encourage experimentation and fine motor skills. Board games, tabletop sports games, dollhouses, racing cars, and electric trains also help develop skills for social and solitary play.

What to avoid

Some propelling toys, like airsoft guns, arrows, BB guns, paintball guns and darts can be particularly hazardous, with the potential to cause serious eye injuries and even permanent vision loss.

An estimated 17% of all eye injuries to children are caused by missile-type toys or toys with hard edges or detachable parts. Look for toys marked with “ASTM,” which means the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Do not allow your children to play with non-powder rifles, pellet guns or BB guns. They are extremely dangerous and have been reclassified as firearms and removed from toy departments.

Bio: Dr. Benevento is a board certified ophthalmologist. He has special interest in diabetes and the surgical treatment of cataracts with the latest techniques. Dr. Benevento practices at Eye Surgeons Associates Bettendorf and Muscatine, Iowa offices.

The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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