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December is Safe Toys & Gifts Month

December 3rd 2019

We all know the scene from arguably the best Christmas movie ever to be made, Ralphie Parker, a nine-year-old boy, whom all he ever wanted for Christmas was one thing, a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. His desire is rejected by his mother, teacher, and even a mall Santa Claus, all giving him the same warning “You’ll shoot your eye out”. On Christmas morning, to Ralphie’s surprise, his one wish is granted. In all his excitement, Ralphie takes the gun to the backyard and fires at a target on a metal sign. However, the BB ricochets back at Ralphie and knocks his glasses off his face. While searching for his glasses, thinking he has indeed shot his eye out, Ralphie accidentally steps on his glasses and breaks them. He then lies to his mother and blames his broken glasses on a large falling icicle.

As iconic and comical as this movie is, the message that scene delivers, is a serious one. “A Christmas Story” reminds us that we need to take extra care around the holidays to ensure the toys and gifts our children receive are safe and age appropriate. Too often, accidents involving children and toys occur that can result in injuries to the eye. According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, each holiday season, thousands of children across the country end up in emergency rooms with eye-related injuries caused by unsafe toys. Eye injuries such as corneal abrasions, penetration by a foreign object, traumatic cataracts, corneal ulcers, retinal detachments, or complete vision loss can occur from accidents or misuse involving a toy. Most of these injuries can be prevented by taking the proper measures to evaluate the safety of gifts before they are purchased, and to supervise children during any play with toys that could have the potential to cause damage or harm.

Every parent, relative and gift-giver has a role to play in making the holidays safe for children of all ages!

Here are some tips on how to select safe toys for children this holiday season:

  • Is the toy age appropriate? Always check the age recommendations on all toys to make sure they are age appropriate and suitable for the child’s maturity level.  A toy that’s fine for a 12-year-old, may not be fine for a kindergartener. If younger siblings are present, ensure that any toys made for older children are kept out of reach.
  • Has the toy been inspected? In Canada, all toys are regulated to make sure they are safe for use by children. When possible, check toys for a seal of approval that the product meets national safety standards from the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
  • Look at every toy before you purchase it. Is the toy durable? Can it withstand the wear and tear of everyday use without breaking, cracking or coming apart? Toys that fail these tests should be put back on the rack.
  • Do not purchase toys that have projectile or sharp, protruding parts. Toys such as darts, guns, arrows or sharp propelling toys can cause serious eye injuries that can lead to permanent eye damage and even vision loss. Even high-powered water guns such as super soakers or soft foam dart guns can cause significant damage when shot at close range. Check that toys with sticks or handles such as swords, fishing rods, pogo sticks, brooms or sticks have rounded edges/handles and avoid/supervise use with little children.
  • Purchase safety eyewear to accompany sports equipment, chemistry sets or woodworking tools. Speak to your optometrist to learn more about the best option for your child’s hobby of choice.
  • Toys with lasers should be cautioned. Any toys or devices that have a laser or bright light (such as laser pointers or flashlights which are sometimes used by kids to play laser tag) can be dangerous. Bright lights such as those produced by high-powered flashlights can cause temporary vision loss that can lead to a risk of a fall or accident. Further, laser pointers are not safe for use by children as the light intensity can cause retinal burns, blurry vision, and permanent vision loss if shined in someone’s eyes.
  • What about crayons and markers? Don’t forget that markers sold for office use may contain irritating chemicals and can be easy for little fingers to open. Use crayons and markers that are clearly labeled “nontoxic.”
  • Should an infant or toddler play with this? Let’s face it; infants and toddlers will stuff anything and everything in their mouths. Read and follow all product-use guidelines about potential choking or other hazards. Young children should never have access to toys with small parts. A good rule of thumb? If all or part of a toy can fit in a toilet paper roll, it’s not for children under age 3.
When purchasing a toy for that important child in your life, make sure you are considering what is most important - their safety. Don’t let them become a statistic this holiday season! Play safe and enjoy all the joy the holiday season brings!

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