top of page

Don't "Shoot Your Eye Out" This Holiday Season

By K. David Epley, MD

Holidays are a time of joy, but also a time of chaos for many. Eye safety is rarely at the top of parents’ minds. 


Most of the toys on your kid’s wish list may seem harmless enough. They are built for kids after all, right? Unfortunately, no. The eye is one of the body’s most sensitive organs. As an ophthalmologist, I see the injuries some toys routinely cause young patients.  

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, roughly one in 10 children's eye injuries that end up in the ER are caused by toys. Even when kids are being careful, certain gifts just pose too much of a risk to their eye health. 

To keep your holiday celebrations fun and safe this year, here’s a quick checklist you can use to determine what to put under the tree: 

  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp, protruding or projectile parts. 

  • Make sure children are appropriately supervised when playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause eye injuries.  

  • Check the label on any laser products. The device should comply with 21 CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J. If it doesn’t, avoid it. 

  • If you gift sports equipment, include appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses.  

  • Check labels for age recommendations and be sure to select gifts that are appropriate for a child's age and maturity. 

  • Keep toys made for older children away from younger children.

This is also the season for parents to be conscious about the dangers of too much screen time. While screen time itself will not cause injury, reducing a child’s screen time is linked to reducing the onset of nearsightedness.  

If you’re looking for some ideas to keep the kids entertained and away from a screen, we suggest one of the following gifts: 

  • Arts & crafts supplies for all ages. Get their creative juices flowing with paint sets, coloring books, easels, jewelry beads or knitting/sewing kits for older kids. Just make sure to check the recommended age group on each before buying. 

  • Outdoor inspired gifts. Sports equipment like snow gear, roller skates, hiking boots, or the classic bicycle gift are all good ways to encourage healthy outdoor play. Have a kid athlete in your life? Get them the right protective eyewear for their sport of choice. For skiers or snowboarders, that means helmets and  UV-protected goggles — cold weather does not shield the eyes from the sun! 

  • Educational games.  As your toddler’s hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills naturally develop, toys such as building blocks or puzzles become easier to use. Age-appropriate board games for learning how to count, tell time, memory games, and other educational themes are good options. For older kids, find classic board games in foreign languages — such as Guess Who or Scrabble — to practice basic language questions and grammar. 

  • Social card games. Examples include Tabletopics Teen Edition or What Do You Meme. These are great for getting teens away from their phones and interacting with friends and family. 

  • Ugly produce subscriptions boxes. These services deliver good produce not being sold on farms for cosmetic reasons straight to your door. Cook a meal together as a family or set your master chef teen up for success with these nutritious ingredients. Just make sure to forward them a copy of these kitchen eye safety tips

At the end of the day, accidents cannot always be avoided. However, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of eye injuries by being extra thoughtful in your gift-giving. When in doubt, protective safety glasses are always in style! 


Dr. David Epley is a pediatric ophthalmologist and adult strabismus specialist from Washington Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons (WAEPS), affiliated with Swedish Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Evergreen Hospital and Skagit Valley Hospital. 

bottom of page