Teaching Kids Good Eye Habits

Teaching our children how important it is to take care of their eyes should be just as important as teaching them their ABCs. Out of all the other senses – hearing, touch, smell and taste – vision is the one that usually has the greatest impact on their development. Here’s how to teach your child to adopt a lifetime of good eye habits.

Eye exams
At home
At school
At play

Eye Exams

  • It is never too early to take your child for an eye examination. Most experts recommend taking your child for her first eye exam sometime between six months and three years of age.
  • Eye exams should be scheduled regularly, as recommended by your eye doctor. Children with health problems that put them at risk for eye disease (such as diabetes) or who have a family history of eye problems may need to go more frequently. Starting regular eye examinations early on establishes a good pattern for your child to follow later in life.
  • Do not substitute a proper eye examination with a visual screening test, which is usually what is performed at your child’s school. Although important, a visual screening test does not include a pressure test, a slit lamp examination, a dilated fundus examination, or tests for ocular alignment or color vision. These are all important tests to ensure your child’s eyes are healthy. For more information on eye exams, read What to Expect During an Eye Exam.

At Home

  • Provide an area with adequate lighting that is free from glare and reflection for your child to do her homework, read a book or watch TV so she can avoid straining her eyes. Encourage your child to turn on extra lighting whenever she is doing any close-up work. For more tips on lighting, read Light Up Your Life.
  • Encourage your child to eat well. Colourful fruits and veggies protect against some eye conditions. Next time you make dinner, add a serving of broccoli, peas, corn or spinach. Instead of packing a bag of chips or chocolate pudding as a snack, pack an orange, sliced kiwi, a mango or grapes in your child’s lunch.
  • If your child loves to surf the Net, play video games or read, encourage her to take regular breaks to rest her eyes. Also keep your child from sitting extremely close to the TV. Although there is no evidence to suggest that these activities cause vision problems, they can decrease the natural blink reflex and result in tired, red and sore eyes.

At School

  • Your child’s eyes are constantly at work during school hours – reading, looking at the board and using the computer. Pay close attention to your child’s performance at school. Poor grades may be an indicator that your child’s eyes are not working properly. If you suspect a problem, book an appointment with your eye doctor, who may prescribe glasses or recommend changes in the classroom (e.g. ask your child to sit closer to the board). Be sure to let your child’s teacher know if your child has any vision problems.

At Play

  • We know about protecting our own eyes from the sun, but many of us forget to consider the effects of sun exposure on our children’s eyes. Encourage your child to wear sunglasses whenever she is outside. Long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays increases your child’s risk of developing two serious conditions down the road: cataracts and AMD. Buy sunglasses that offer 100 per cent UV A and B protection, and avoid buying toy sunglasses. And have your child use a hat with a wide brim to block sunlight from overhead.
  • If you child is into sports such as baseball or badminton, get her to wear protective goggles so she doesn’t risk a dangerous eye injury. Goggles are also recommended for swimming to avoid stinging eyes or eye infections.
  • Avoid buying toys with sharp points or edges and steer clear of toys with arrows, bullets and missiles. Projectile toys can cause damage if they hit the eye, no matter how soft they are. For more information, read Children, Toys and Eye Safety
  • Teach your child to walk – not run – when holding objects such as pencils, pens, straws or umbrellas.

For more information on eye conditions and care, tips on eye safety, first aid and injury prevention, plus timely information on eye health issues that affect us all, visit the Your Eyes section of CNIB’s website.