Every year Christmas is full of illusion, especially on the part of children who long to receive the expected gifts from the hand of the Three Wise Men or Santa Claus. Many of them have already prepared a long list of toys, but are they all safe?
In 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded more than 226 thousand injuries caused by toys, almost half of which were to the head and to children under 15 years of age. On the other hand, it has been shown that those toys that incorporate darts are especially dangerous, since damage caused by these can cause weeks of pain and blurred vision.
What eye damage can be caused by toys?
Eyes are very vulnerable organs and certain eye damage can have long-term effects on them. Usually, eye damage associated with toys comes from abrasions and eye bleeding or hyphema, although in more serious cases it can cause retinal detachment, eye fracture or blindness. It is also important not to abuse games that require looking at a screen, as overexposure can lead to increased myopia.
On the other hand, toys containing darts can cause eye trauma, increased eye pressure or cataracts, and if not properly treated can lead to glaucoma in the future.
Therefore, it is important to remember some safety tips when choosing children’s and teenagers’ toys this Christmas.
1. Prevent children from playing with high-power lasers.
Several reports show that children playing with high-power lasers (between 1500 and 6000 mW) suffer severe eye injuries. Over the years, the power of these lasers has increased to the point where they are capable of causing severe retinal damage with only a few seconds of eye exposure. For this reason it is important that a laser pointer is never pointed or directed at any person and that such products are not purchased for children.
2. Read the age recommendations on toy labels before purchasing toys.
Before purchasing a toy, it is important to make sure that it bears the European Union (CE) seal of conformity. To confirm that a toy is suitable for a child’s age, locate the label and age recommendations and follow the instructions for assembly, use and supervision.
3. Look for toys according to the visual capacity of the child.
While labels help us confirm which toys are appropriate at each stage, when it comes to children with low visual ability, choosing the most appropriate gift can be a challenge. For this reason, knowing the capabilities of infants at each age can help to make a better choice:
- 0 to 3 years: this is a time when they learn by playing and touching all the objects around them. Therefore, it is important to look for toys that help to establish bonds with parents, as well as hand-eye coordination and object recognition. At this age, toys do not have to be complex and simpler toys are usually better: contrasting colors, lights, noise and textures. Balls of different sizes and colors, pictures and books with large, simple facial expressions are also good choices. Remember that toys don’t always have to be developmental, they can just be fun.
- From 3 to 12 years: At this age children develop motor skills, social and emotional interaction, the transition from concrete to abstract and literacy. From third grade on, children also begin to read, so toys and games that promote literacy in a playful environment are ideal: books with bright colors, textures and audible sounds. Other good choices for play are lighted building blocks, dominoes with raised dots, kinetic play sand, sports games and musical instruments.
4. Don’t just do gifts
In addition to giving a present, it is important to supervise the child playing with the gift. Therefore, it is vital to make sure that there is always someone watching the children when they play with any toy whose use could in one way or another cause eye injuries.
5. Be careful with pellet guns and other projectile guns
Each year, ophthalmologists treat thousands of patients with serious eye injuries caused by seemingly harmless toys. Therefore, toys containing projectile, protruding or sharp elements, such as pellet guns, air guns or other foreign objects related to these types of weapons, should be avoided, as they can impact sensitive eye tissues.
6. If you give sports equipment as a gift, be sure to give eye protection.
Practicing sports without the proper equipment is one of the main causes of eye trauma and can lead not only to damage such as penetrations, contusions or injuries to the surface of the cornea, but also to leaks in the blood vessels, corneal abrasions, inflammation or tissue detachment. If you give sports equipment as a gift, make sure you also give the right eye protection.
7. Act when necessary and in the appropriate manner
If a child or adult suffers an eye injury, go quickly to an ophthalmologic emergency room. From the time of the injury until medical attention can be obtained, be sure not to touch, rub or apply pressure to the eye, and do not attempt to remove any object that may be trapped in the eye.
Screen-free toy gift ideas
It is important that children fill their free time with activities that do not require the use of phones or tablets, since the use of screens can harm their eye health, causing an increase in myopia. For that reason, our Pediatric Ophthalmology department recommends some technology-free toys.
- Materials for making crafts: Plastic materials help enhance the creativity of the little ones. Painting sets, coloring books, costume jewelry packs or play dough are some ideas to consider. However, it is important to look at the recommended age of these products before giving them as gifts.
- Outdoor gifts: bicycles, roller skates or trampolines are good ways to encourage healthy outdoor play while having fun. Remember to also give them the right protective goggles for the sport they practice.
- Board games: There is an infinite variety of board games, from the most classic ones, such as Scrabble or chess, to the most innovative and original ones. All of them allow children to develop their cognitive skills while enjoying a good afternoon with friends or family. Puzzles and card games are also recommended.
Champagne corks, another Christmas item to take into account
If it is a tradition for children to receive toys at Christmas, adults usually celebrate the holidays with a bottle of wine or champagne on the table. It is also important to be careful with bottle corks, since a cork can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h. Therefore, if it comes into contact with the eye at these speeds, abrasions, ocular bleeding and even glaucoma can occur.
- Holiday Gift and Toy Safety Checklist. American Academy of Ophthalmology
- How to pop a Champagne Cork without harming your eye. American Academy of Ophthalmology
- Toy Guns, Crossbows and Nerf Darts Can Shoot Your Eyes Out. American Academy of Ophthalmology
- The Ophthalmologist-Approved Holiday Gift Guide. American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Choosing Toys and Resources for Children with Low Vision. American Academy of Ophthalmology