Good Toys and Bad Toys for Children's Vision

By: Dr. Maurice Zadeh
By: Dr. Maurice Zadeh

Is it my imagination, or does the Christmas shopping season seem to start earlier each year? I could have sworn that several stores in my neighborhood had Christmas decorations up before they brought in the pumpkins for Halloween!

Whether or not Christmas and other holiday shopping did begin earlier than usual this year, it is clearly in full swing now, and so I would like to encourage parents to pay close attention to the toys they (and Santa) bring home this year for their children...particularly the very young ones. While some toys can be quite dangerous to young eyes, others can actually help improve children's vision.

From the moment of birth, your child is learning to see. He or she progresses from the newborn's blurry world of light and dark to the school-age child's sophisticated ability to handle complex vision tasks.

Toys, games and playtime activities help by stimulating this process of vision development.

Here is a list of toys and activities that can help your child develop or improve various vision skills.

Birth through five months:

  • Toys: Sturdy crib mobiles and gyms; bright large rattles and rubber squeak toys.

  • Activities: Peek-a-boo; patty cake.

Six months through 8 months:

  • Toys: Stuffed animals; floating bath toys.

  • Activities: Hide and seek with toys.

Nine months through 12 months:

  • Toys: Sturdy cardboard books; take-apart toys; snap-lock beads; block; stacking/nesting toys.

  • Activities: Roll a ball back and forth.

One-year olds:

  • Toys: Bright balls; blocks; zippers; rocking horse; riding toys pushed with the feet.

  • Activities: Throwing a ball.

Two-year olds:

  • Toys: Pencils, markers, crayons; bean bag/ring toss games; peg hammering toys, sorting games; puzzles blocks.

  • Activities: Read to child; outdoor play; catch.

Three to six years

  • Toys: Building toys with large snap-together pieces; stringing beads; puzzles; pegboard crayons; finger paints; chalk; large balls; modeling clay; simple sewing cards; tricycle; follow-the-dot games; sticker books and games.

  • Activities: Climbing, running; using a balance beam.

Seven years and older:

  • Toys: Bicycle; jump ropes, pogo sticks; roller skates; different size and shape balls; target games; remote controlled toys; complex puzzles.

  • Activities: Active sports; cycling.

On the other hand, there are toys that can cause serious eye injuries and vision loss. Parents should heed these warnings.

  • Avoid toys with sharp or rigid points, shafts, spikes, rods, and dangerous edges.

  • Keep toys intended for older children away from younger children.

  • Avoid flying toys and projectile-firing toys; these pose a danger to all children, particularly those under five years old.

  • Be aware of items in playgrounds and play areas that pose potential eye hazards.

  • Keep BB guns away from kids (or supervise them carefully).

When buying toys, remember to select those that are well made and age appropriate. Provide proper eye safety equipment for older children and be certain that they wear protective eye ware when participating in eye hazardous sports and when using chemistry sets, shop tools, BB guns or other items. Inexpensive homemade toys can be just as effective in helping children develop and improve their vision skills as expensive store bought ones.

Finally, if you notice any of these signs, get medical help right away.

  • Your child has obvious pain or trouble seeing.

  • Your child has a cut or torn eyelid.

  • One eye does not move as well as the other.

  • One eye sticks out compared to the other.

  • The eye has an unusual pupil size or shape.

  • There is blood in the clear part of the eye.

  • Your child has something in the eye or under the eyelid that can't be easily removed.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a safe holiday season to all.

Dr. Maurice Zadeh is president of the Georgia Optometric Association.

For more information about protecting your child's eyes, call the Georgia Optometric Association at 770-961-9866 or visit http://www.ciclt.net/goa on the web.


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