“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”: Toy Safety

In the 1983 holiday classic, A Christmas Story, 9-year-old Ralphie only has one thing on his mind: opening up a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model air rifle on Christmas morning. His mother, teacher, and even the Santa Claus at the department store all give him the same warning: “You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!” As it turns out, there is real cause for concern. One out of every ten eye injuries in children can be traced back to toys. Making sure the next “new and exciting” toy does not cause harm is essential to having a fun and safe holiday season.


The most common types of eye injuries that occur from toys can range from a scratch on the cornea (front surface of the eye) to more serious injuries: traumatic cataracts, infection, bleeding inside the eye (hyphema), bruising, or retinal detachment. Most of these injuries can be prevented by evaluating the safety of the toy, wearing protective eyewear, and supervising children when playing with a toy that has the potential to cause damage or harm to the eye. 

Here are several tips to consider when selecting safe toys for children: 

  • Check the recommendations on all toys to make sure they are age appropriate and suitable for the child’s maturity level. If there are younger siblings, it is important to keep the toys out of the younger children’s reach. 
  • When possible, check toys for seal of approval to see if the toy meets national safety standards from toy safety organizations such as the American Society of Testing Material (ASTM) or the Canadian Toy Testing Council. 
  • Do not purchase toys that have projectile or sharp protruding parts. Toys such as darts, guns, arrows, soft foam dart guns, or sharp propelling toys can cause serious eye injuries that can lead to permanent vision loss. 
  • Safety eyewear with polycarbonate lenses should be worn with sports equipment, chemistry sets, wood working, cross bows, and nerf guns. 
  • Check toys with sticks or handles (swords, fishing rods, pogo sticks, brooms), making sure they have rounded edges or handles. 
  • Any toys or devices that have laser or bright lights (such as laser pointers or laser tag guns) can be dangerous. Ensure the laser product label includes a statement that the device complies with 21 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) subchapter. 

In addition to choosing the right toys for eye safety, it is also important to make sure your child knows how to use them properly. Supervision and modeling safe behaviors teaches children how to play safe while having fun.

As a parent or guardian, be sure to: 

  • Check toys regularly to ensure there are not any broken, sharp parts that may be a hazard. Throw away or repair broken toys. 
  • Teach children to put away toys when they are not being played with. 
  • Stay informed of any toy recalls. For a full list of product recalls, visit the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website at www.cpsc.gov. 
  • Make sure the child understands not to aim or look into any toys or devices with a laser light
  • If you have any concerns regarding a toy’s safety, it is best to err on the side of caution and do not allow your child to play with it. 

With the proper precautions, toys can be both entertaining and safe. That being said, accidents do happen. If you think your child has sustained an eye injury to his or her eye(s), watch for the following:

Signs and Symptoms

  • Child is having obvious pain or trouble seeing 
  • Child has a cut or torn eyelid 
  • One eye does not move as well as the other 
  • One of the eyes sticks out compared to the other 
  • The eye has an unusual pupil size or shape 
  • There is blood in the clear part of the eye 
  • The child has something in the eye or underneath the eyelid that cannot be easily removed 

It is important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Waiting can hinder your child’s vision and ocular health. If there are questions or concerns, please call our office. From all of us at Associated Eye Care, we hope you have a fun and safe holiday season! 


American Society of Testing Material (ASTM), https://www.astm.org/ Canadian Toy Testing Council, http://toy-testing.org/ Consumer Product Safety Commission, www.cpsc.gov 

About the author

Image of Ann M. Hickson, O.D.

Ann M. Hickson, O.D.

Comprehensive Optometry, Pediatric Optometry, Surgical Co-Management,

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Dr. Hickson Dr. Hickson joined Associated Eye Care in 2003. She received her Doctor of Optometry degree from The Ohio State University College of Optometry. She also completed a pediatric fellowship and obtained a master’s degree in vision sci...

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