When babies, toddlers, or preschools first see the eye doctor, it can be surprising to find out they have a hard time seeing properly. Some children are more “at risk” of needing glasses. For example, for babies born premature, their first pair may come as early as 6 or 9 months. Visual impairments can affect many aspects of your child’s development including using their hands, moving around safely, play and problem solving.
Some conditions that are common in babies, toddlers and preschoolers are:
- Esotropia: when one or both eyes turn inward or are misaligned
- Strabismus: eyes that are not straight resulting in reduced vision
- Farsightedness (hyperopia): when objects in the distance are seen better than objects that are near (corrected with a positive lens)
- Nearsightedness (myopia): objects near are seen better than objects far (corrected with a minus lens)
- Nystagmus: involuntary continuous movement of the eyes
- Retinopathy of Prematurity: the retina may be partially or completely detached; seen in premature babies
Most optometrists and ophthalmologists say the earlier the child’s vision can be corrected, the better. If your child needs glasses, the next step is keeping them on. There are a few tips and tricks that the eye doctor may provide you with – including the following:
Step One: Fitting
- Try not to come directly at your child’s face – this can be intrusive and scary
- Look at the structure of the glasses during the fitting – do the nose pieces fit correctly? Do the glasses slide down when your child is moving around?
- Be a role model – try on glasses with your child and make glasses interesting, but not a game
- Use distractions! Kids are so interested in their world. Provide something interesting to look at (maybe a photo album or book), then verbally prompt the child “glasses are coming on,” and then from behind gently place on your child’s face.
- Start with short times and be consistent with your approach.
- Keep it positive – try using “glasses stay on” rather than “no taking your glasses off!”
Step Three: The Everyday Routine
- Make putting on their glasses part of their morning routine. Try incorporating them into dressing.
- If the child forgets they are wearing them… great!
- If your child is tired, and irritable and they take them off – that’s ok.
Babies will mouth glasses, and toddlers will lose glasses. Remember to look at straps, strings, clips etc. that could save you money in the long run! As your child grows and gets used to wearing them daily, these can be removed.
If you are worried about your child’s vision, speak to your Family Doctor for a referral. Newborn babies can only see about 12-18 inches away, which is the perfect length between your baby in arm, and your face. The ability to see high contrast (black on white) starts in the newborn period, and then around 3-4 months, your baby can watch you move around the room. At around 6 months your baby’s eyes are able to see further and further away.
Early and regular eye exams are a great way to make sure your child is seeing the world properly. Contact your optometrist to find out the best plan for your child. The Eye See… Eye Learn Program is another great resource to help children in Junior Kindergarten.
Share your experience:
For more tips and hints about your child’s eyesight and first pair of glasses, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly: