Holiday Toy Alert: Keeping Children’s Eyes Safe

By Martin Brown

“You’ll shoot your eye out,” is one of the memorable lines from the holiday classic, A Christmas Story. Little Ralphie Parker hears this taunting admonition repeatedly after he presents his “What I Want for Christmas” composition. As you no doubt recall, Ralphie wanted an “Official Red Ryder 200 shot carbine-action range-model air rifle.” Better known as a BB Gun, no kid growing up in the 40s, 50s, or 60s did not hear the same warning that Ralphie heard.

BB guns are not nearly as popular today as they were in Ralphie’s time, but unfortunately eye injuries are still all too common, particularly at this time of year. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds us that last year alone there were more than 250,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms.

So the dilemma for parents is how do we get the kids what they’re hoping to find under the tree and hopefully safeguard them from injury as well?

David Wheeler, MD, pediatric ophthalmologist with the academy suggests, “A good rule of thumb is to choose a toy that is appropriate for your child’s age and abilities.” Consider as well, Wheeler says, the time that you will have to supervise their use of any new toy. “Being aware and thoughtful about what you are putting in your children’s hands is the best preventative medicine.”

It’s no surprise that a serious eye injury can ruin a family’s holiday. Christmas Day spent in a hospital emergency room is not on any parent’s list of hoped for things to do for the holidays. And, you’ll be surprised to learn that over 20% of the eye related toy injuries are suffered by adults trying to figure the toy out or on the receiving end of a misaimed projectile.

The academy gives four important tips for keeping eyes save during the holiday season and all year around.

First, and most importantly, avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts.

Second, when there is a potential safety hazard, do your very best to assure your children have appropriate supervision and discuss fully with them the potential dangers.

Third, if you plan to give sports equipment, provide appropriate eye protective gear that has “polycarbonate” lenses.

Fourth, always check product labels for age recommendations and be sure to select gifts that are appropriate for your child’s age and maturity.

In this age of Internet and television marketing children are exposed constantly to toy options that are not appropriate for their age. The only true gatekeeper is you, the parent. This is a role that has become more challenging today than it has perhaps ever been before.

It’s a sober message and not fun to think about over the holidays, but as we all know, eyes are precious. As parents we need to do all that we can to protect them.


Martin Brown is the Heath Channel Editor for, and co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Finding Mr. Right.

His latest book is Fit in 50 Days.

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