How well can your child see? Maybe not as well as you think. And while it may not seem like a big deal if your kid’s vision is a little off, the impacts can be far more severe than you could ever imagine. Sports, school, and even hanging out with friends are all a lot harder if your child can’t see well. If you’re a parent, knowing how to protect your child’s vision is just as important as protecting other parts of their physical health.
But where do you even start? How can you tell if your child has a vision problem? Unless they’re struggling to learn their letters and shapes, or keep up with the teacher’s writing on the board in school, you may have no clue. Both my kids wear glasses now (as do Dear Husband and I), but it took our kiddos’ teachers telling us that Essie and Kimmie were struggling in class before we realized they needed a little help with their eyesight.
Protecting a kid’s eyes is especially important because their vision is critical to learning. And with more kids spending more time on screens at increasingly younger ages, protecting kids’ vision has taken on new importance. As screen time rises for younger children, vision experts have noticed a parallel uptick in kids who have trouble seeing; by the time they start preschool, as many as 1 in 5 children already experience sight issues.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things parents can do to help protect their children’s eyesight. Here are some of the top tips experts recommend to help you protect your child’s vision.
This is a collaboration post. However, please know I stand behind everything written here, and only include links to products/services/resources I’m willing to recommend personally.
Give them blue light glasses
The prevalence of children’s entertainment online has contributed to the growing number of kids that need prescription glasses. On average, kids as young as eight years old spend six hours a day glued to a digital device. Additionally, even though we have moved beyond the crisis point of the past few years’ global pandemic, a sizable percentage of children still participate in hybrid or remote learning for school.
Unfortunately, screens emit blue light, which can be harmful to children after prolonged exposure. Blue light has been scientifically proven to mess with your body’s natural sleep schedule. And for some kiddos with learning differences, a good night’s sleep is already hard to come by – so why would you want to make it even harder for your child to sleep?
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Fortunately, there’s one easy solution to the problem of excess blue light in your kiddo’s environment. Parents can easily address these effects by giving their children blue light glasses, which both filter out blue light and help to relieve eye strain and dryness. By blocking out the blue light wavelengths in your kids’ screen time, these special glasses can help offset the damaging effects of blue light on their eyes while preserving their vision.
Additionally, some people have found that blue light glasses can help improve focus by reducing eye fatigue, which is an added bonus!
Make sure they get sufficient sleep
Getting the recommended amount of sleep every night is essential to keep kids healthy. A lack of proper rest among children can lead to the risk of various diseases and intense mood swings. Additionally, not getting enough sleep can lead to kids having blurred vision and eye spasms.
Establishing a healthy sleep routine is vital for kids to be in great shape. This will make them associate a specific time with rest and allow them to wind down comfortably. Kids of all ages can benefit from a solid bedtime routine, not just infants or toddlers – grownups benefit from them too! It doesn’t matter whether your routine includes a warm bath, singing lullabies, reading stories, or doing a wind-down meditation together (that’s the current favorite for 11-year-old Essie and me); the consistency will help your child’s body cue in to the fact that it’s time to shift to sleep.
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And don’t forget about your child’s sleep environment! Dim lights and a dark room will make solid sleep come faster. I also strongly encourage a no-devices-in-the-bedroom and no-devices-bef0re-bed policy for your kiddos, as screentime at night can really mess with their sleep cycle and quality.
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Provide sun protection
Because their eyelids are thinner, kids have a higher sensitivity to light than adults do. This becomes a danger when they stay outdoors for too long, because the sun emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and UV radiation can cause serious eye diseases. Compared to an adult, a child’s retinas will also let in 70% more UV rays.
That said, since going outside is still highly beneficial for children, it’s best to give them protective gear when outdoors. Aside from tinted sunglasses that block out UV rays, this also includes wide-brimmed hats and sunblock. With those, kids are less prone to sunburns on their eyes and glare from the bright sun.
Kiddo resistant to wearing sunglasses? Infant and toddler styles often come with straps to help keep them in place. And if your child already has prescription glasses, you can request an autotint coating that automatically turns them into sunglasses when your child steps outside. When Kimmie and Essie were tweens, they both had autotint glasses for a few years because it was easier than fussing with a separate pair of shades, and they’ll still take those glasses with them on camping trips.
Serve healthy food
A balanced diet is important for growing kids, because it gives them the nutrition they need for development. It’s a parent’s job to make sure that their children are eating a lot of fruits and veggies, as well as getting enough vitamins. Now that it’s summer where we live, we’re awash in fresh local vegetables at local farmers’ markets and even our neighborhood grocery stores, and our own gardens are well on their way to catching up.
There are specific foods you can serve your kids to help their eye health. Vegetables rich in vitamin A, like carrots and spinach, can combat dry eyes among kids. Fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids can also prevent eye degeneration in the future. By shaping what they eat as kids, you can keep your children’s eyes healthy in the years to come.
Worried about picky eaters? Healthy family eating doesn’t have to be impossible. Getting your kids as involved in the process as you can – whether it’s picking and preparing recipes, choosing new fruits and veggies to try at the grocery store, or helping you plant a garden and harvest its bounty – will all go a long way toward getting them into a habit of eating healthy, home-cooked meals.
Get their eyes examined regularly
Lastly, don’t assume that the free eye checkup your child may get at school will be enough to alert you to any problems. One study found that routine school eye screenings can miss up to 75% of vision problems in children. When you consider that young children in particular may not realize they have limited sight, or be able to communicate their problems seeing to a grownup, that statistic is downright frightening!
This is why it’s up to parents to monitor their children closely for any symptoms, such as unfocused eyes, squinting, and lack of focus overall. However, the best way to be sure your kiddos can see properly is by scheduling a comprehensive eye exam for them by the time they start kindergarten, or earlier if you suspect there’s an issue. The earlier your children can get expert care for any vision problems they may be experiencing, the better off they’ll be in the long run.
Not all eye doctors will see patients under 5, so you may need to call around ahead of time to find one who works well with kids. It took me years to find an ophthalmologist I liked for my own eye care, so I was oh-so-grateful when I learned she was also a parent of young kids, and had no age restrictions on the patients she would see. Both my girls have loved going to her over the years, just as I’ve appreciated how she always remembers to ask how my kids are doing when I visit her for my own eye exams.
Now that you know how to help protect your children’s vision, what tips do you have for other parents on keeping your kids’ eyesight healthy? Let us know in the comments below!
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