Everyone remembers the famous warning given to Ralphie in A Christmas Story: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun more than anything, but the adults in his life know how dangerous such a gift could be—and by the end of the movie, these concerns are validated when Ralphie fires off his new toy and the BB ricochets, coming back and hitting his cheek so hard he thinks he really has shot his eye out!
Luckily, Ralphie narrowly avoids this injury, but in real life, not everyone is so lucky. The best way to keep our kids and their eyes safe from toys like this is to avoid buying them in the first place. Here’s what kind of toys pediatric eye specialists say to avoid when shopping for the kids in your life this holiday season:
Toys with Projectiles
Just like Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB gun, toys that feature projectiles can be very dangerous for kids. Toy guns, water balloon launchers, toy archery sets, can cause accidents and injuries that can impair or permanently damage a person’s eyesight. Whether these projectiles are plastic pellets, foam darts, fake arrows, or whatever else, they’re definitely not something you want to end up in anyone’s eye.
In December 2015, the American Academy of Ophthalmology warned specifically against these kinds of toys, stating that (opens in a new tab) in recent years. These injuries included corneal abrasions, or scratches on the front of the eye, as well as hyphema, an eye injury typically caused by blunt trauma wherein blood pools in front of the eye. In the worst cases, toy guns led to blindness or even the loss of an eye.
Sharp, Pointy Toys
We probably don’t need to go into too much detail on why sharp toys can be harmful to children’s eyes. But, it’s worth mentioning what kind of toys we mean. For instance, you might think a wand or a toy fishing pole would be harmless, but you’d be mistaken. Any long objects that come to a point, like a toy fishing pole or toy sword, or a long object with something pointy secured at the end, like a wand with a star, can be dangerous for young kids and their eyes.
In fact, it’s important to remember that toy weapons in general can be dangerous. These kinds of toys encourage kids to use them against each other, and given the age and personality of the children involved, this can spell disaster.
Other Risky Toys
Toys with aerosols and bright lights can also be dangerous for children’s eyes. Silly String, or other foam string sprays, on top of having a projectile, also contain aerosols. Aerosols can cause eye irritation and chemical conjunctivitis, the latter of which causes severe pain, decreased vision, and large amounts of swelling. Also, if sprayed at short-range, these kind of aerosol toys can even scratch the cornea, possibly leading to an eye infection or other issues.
By “toys with bright lights,” we mean particularly bright flashlights and laser pointers. We don’t tend to think of these as toys, but a lot of kids love to play games like “flashlight tag” and at-home versions of “laser tag,” treating these devices as toys. High-powered flashlights can cause temporary blindness if shone directly into someone’s eyes (as a lot of us have probably experienced at some point in our lives!), leading children to stumble or fall, causing injury. Laser pointers are more directly dangerous, given that they can cause permanent damage or vision loss if used incorrectly.
How to Choose Eye-Safe Toys
When looking for eye-safe toys this holiday season, think about what we’ve discussed above:
- Does the toy use projectiles?
- Does it have sharp edges or points?
- Does it use aerosols or harsh, bright lights?
- Is it a toy weapon?
f the answer is yes to any of these, try looking for something else, like a stuffed animal, board game, or even a video game!
However, if the kid in your life just needs a toy that poses an eye risk, there are still steps you can take to give it to them safely. For instance, most toys have a recommended age range—if your child falls into this range, they are more likely to play with it safely. Even so, you know your child better than anyone else. Every child has a different level of maturity and responsibility, meaning those suggested age ranges may not always be accurate for your child. For that reason, if you’re shopping for someone else’s child, make sure to check in with their parents before buying a potentially dangerous toy
Your child’s eyes matter and are important to keep in mind not only throughout the holiday season, but throughout the rest of the year, as well. Make sure to keep up with their eye exams and visit their pediatric optometrist every one to two years, or as their doctor recommends.
Have a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season!