By Linda Conlin, Pro to Pro Managing Editor

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone. Have you finished your holiday shopping? I’ve barely scratched anyone off my list, but even if you’re ready to ‘wrap things up,’ there’s something to keep in mind if your gift list includes children. December is Safe Toys Month, and Prevent Blindness reminds us that each year, thousands of children younger than 15 suffer serious eye injuries from toys. The U.S. Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported in 2017 that emergency rooms in the U.S. treated more than 100,000 toy-related injuries to the head and face alone. It’s time to take a close look at some of those nifty gifts to make sure they are safe, and Prevent Blindness offers some guidelines.

Make sure the toy is appropriate for the child’s age. Show children how to use toys safely, and supervise play. Read all instructions and warnings on the packaging, and avoid toys with points, spikes or projectiles. Laser pointers can cause retinal damage if shined into the eye for even a few seconds, and should not be given to children. Air guns can cause eye injury, and Ralphie’s dream gift in A Christmas Story aside, BB Guns are NOT toys! Even guns that shoot soft projectiles have been known to cause internal bleeding in the eye (hyphema) from the impact. Toys should also be impact resistant. Prevent Blindness recommends storing toys properly and repairing or discarding broken toys.

A quick way to assess a toy’s safety is to look for the ASTM International designation. ASTM is the American Society for Testing and Materials. They are a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of voluntary consensus standards used around the world to improve product quality, enhance health and safety and build consumer confidence. ASTM sets standards for all types of products through research and testing, and for toys, identifies “possible hazards that may not be recognized readily by the public and that may be encountered in the normal use for which a toy is intended, or after reasonably foreseeable abuse.” They are considered to be the gold standard for toy safety.

Don’t forget that the holidays are a time for arts and crafts. Children using scissors and glue must have close supervision. Gifts of sporting equipment are always popular. If your gift to a child is sports related, why not go the extra step and include the proper eye protection for that sport? With some common sense and a little research, your gift to a child can be safe as well as fun.

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