Skip to main content

Top Tips for Choosing Safe Toys This Holiday Season

"Careful or you'll poke someone's eye out!"

Chances are you heard that phrase as a kid. And chances are you've found yourself shouting it to your kids—with good reason.

The thrills of lightsabers, wands, bows, and swords are just too much to resist—especially when it comes to holiday wish lists. Add flying projectiles from BB guns and the joys of slimeball launchers and the risk of facial and eye injuries is real.

In this season of new toy shopping, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has declared "Safe Toys Month"—a time to consider safety before you buy.

How bad can it be?

“We see everything from corneal abrasions (minor scratches on the front of the eye) to sight-threatening traumatic cataracts, bleeding inside the eye, and retinal detachments caused by the usual sharp objects and projectiles,” says Marielle P. Young, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist at John A. Moran Eye Center. "Sometimes, they're caused by toys you'd never even think of—like aerosol string."

When resistance is futile

What if parents can't resist? What if you decide to go ahead and get that crossbow or sword because your child really, really wants it and you plan to "make sure" that they play safely?

In that case, Young encourages parents to add some safety eyewear as a stocking stuffer. She suggests looking for kid-size, affordable options in stores or online.

Here's how to keep an eye on toy safety this holiday season:

  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding, or projectile parts.
  • Make sure children have appropriate supervision when playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause an eye injury.
  • Ensure that laser product labels include a statement that the device complies with 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J.
  • Along with sports equipment, give children the appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses. Check with your ophthalmologist to learn about protective gear recommended for your child's sport.
  • Check labels for age recommendations. Be sure to select gifts that are appropriate for a child's age and maturity.
  • Keep toys that are made for older children away from younger children.

If your child experiences an eye injury from a toy, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist.

Toys to Avoid

As they do each year, World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) released its "10 Worst Toys" list for 2023.