8 Ways To Protect Your Kids’ Eyes

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Whether its winter, spring, summer or fall, your eyes are the only set you get. Taking care of them and showing your kids how to take care of them is just as important as showing them how to take care of their teeth, hair and skin.

8 Ways to Protect Your Kids' Eyes

According to the American Optometric Association, children should first have their eyes checked at 6-months-old. Subsequent vision checks are then recommended at 3 and before beginning kindergarten, or at 5 or 6. Once children are in school the AOA recommends that they should get their eyes checked every two years. If they wear glasses or contacts the recommendation changes to once a year.

  • Basic visual skills needed for learning include:
  • Near vision
  • Distance vision
  • Binocularity skills
  • Eye movement skills
  • Focusing
  • Peripheral awareness
  • Eye/hand coordination

However in between checks there are a couple of ways parents can help to protect and preserve kids’ eyesight.

Limit screen time

You knew this was coming, right? For children 2 – 5 the AAP recommends that you limit screen time to 1 hour of high-quality programming per day. For 6 and up they recommend a more well-rounded approach to limiting screen time and advise that you balance it with other activates and make sure it doesn’t encroach on other activities and sleep.

From an increase in dry-eye syndrome in kids, which is most commonly seen in adults 50 plus and is often caused by blinking less often, to blue light exposure, scientists are just beginning to understand the impact of so much screen time on our eyes. Whether it is for enjoyment or for studying, the screen time is straining young and growing eyes.

Play outside

A study conducted by the University of Sydney found that exposure to sunshine as a young child is important for the development of healthy eyes. The study was published in the AOA professional journal and showed that kids who spend more time outdoors were less likely to be short-sighted or myopic, which means nearsighted. The research recommends that kids under 6 spend at least 10 hours outside in the sun each week.

The study says that exposing kids to sunlight at a young age “assists in the growth of a normal, healthy eyeball preventing it from growing too fast” and from becoming oval or egg-shaped versus round.

8 Ways to Protect Your Kids' Eyes

Watch for signs and symptoms

There are some telltale signs that your child might have some eye issues. If they have eyes that are slightly turned out or crossed, consistently sitting too close or too far from books or the TV, sensitive to light or excessive tearing, squinting or tilting their head to see better, and other issues outlined by the AOA, take them to the eye doctor for a check-up.

Get regular eye checks

Follow the schedule mentioned above to keep up with kids’ eye health. The American Academy of Pediatric and the American Association for Pediatric Ophthamology and Strabismus experts work together to develop recommendations based on scientific evidence and while the above guidelines are general you can a find a state-by-state guide here.

Provide kids with toys & activities that encourage visual development

According to the AOA there are many toys that can help your child develop visually and most parents probably don’t even realize it. Basically any toys that help hand-eye coordination will help promote eye health. Here are some examples from AOA.

  • Newborn – 5-months
    • Toys: Mobiles, baby gyms and bright rattles
    • Activities: Peek-a-boo
  • 6-8 months
    • Toys: Stuffed animals and floating bath toys
    • Activities: Reading to kids and hide-and-seek with toys.
  • 9 – 12 Months
    • Toys: Toddler books, blocks and stacking or nesting toys
    • Activities: Reading to kids and rolling a ball.
  • 1-year-olds
    • Toys: Balls, zippers, blocks and riding toys that they can push with their feet.
    • Activities: Reading and throwing a ball
  • 2-year-olds
    • Toys: Crayons, bean bag games, hammering toys, sorting shapes, puzzles and toddler books.
    • Activities: Reading to kids and playing outside.
  • 3 – 6-years-old
    • Toys: Building with blocks or Legos, stringing beads, puzzles, crayons, finger paint, chalk, play dough or clay, sewing cards, matching shapes, bike/tricycle, connect the dots and sticker books.
    • Activities: Playing catch, playing outside and reading.
  • 7-yeard-old +
    • Toys: Bike riding, jumping rope, roller skating or roller blading, target games, age appropriate puzzles, remote-control toys and sorting games.
    • Activities: Riding your bike, horseback riding and outdoor sports.

Eat your colors

You need more than carrots for your eyes. According to WebMD food that contains specific key nutrients and antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and lutein are all linked to good eye health. Some examples of these foods include kale, spinach, grapefruit, strawberries, Brussel sprouts, seeds and nuts.

Have them wear sunglasses with full UV protection

Only about 58 percent of adults make their kids wear sunglasses, according to WebMD, but UV exposure is just as harmful to eyes as it is to skin. UV exposure can cause short-term and long-term effects on the eyes and people with blue eyes are more susceptible to the damage.

Kids are outside so much more than adults and half of the lifetime sun exposure happens within the first 20 years of life, according to the Optician Alliance of New York. And kids’ eye lens transmit more UV than adult eyes, about 70 percent more. This puts their eyes at greater risk. Couple that with the rapid ozone depletion still occurring and kids’ eyes today need more protection right from the start than our’s did 20 years ago.

Protect their eyes while at play

With so many kids now playing sports at younger and younger ages, protecting their eyes has become imperative.

According to Prevent Blindness America about 40,000 sports-related eye injuries occur each year and are bad enough to require a trip to the ER. About 90 percent of these could be prevent with protective eyewear.

For kids a lot of these injuries occur during sport activities. Anything with a ball, puck or projectile (including the human hand/fist) can be a sport that can damage their eyes.

For a full list of sports and to find out more about the type of protective eyewear you can chose for your child visit allaboutvision.com.


71 COMMENTS

  1. Great post! We always find eye care important. My soon the be 4 year old has a stigmatism and will soon be getting glasses I’m pretty sure.

  2. Growing up my mom always made sure that if I was outside that I wore sunglasses. She grew up in the 50’s where she would look at the sun a lot, because she thought it was beautiful. She developed macular degeneration which the eye dr told her it was all that looking at the sun!

  3. I had no idea that sunlight was necessary for good development of the eyes. I find that really interesting. Thanks for the great tips. Taking care of the eyes is so crucial!

  4. Great tips! I see more and more parents now limiting screen time, which is great. And also in my neighborhood, there are more kids playing outside. At first it was kind of odd, but now I love how everyone is used to them being outside and riding bikes! I guess I should recommend to them that they wear sunglasses when hanging outside though!

  5. I remember my friends getting glasses as a kids after months of squinting at the board. You would think that kids who are old enough would say something when they’re having trouble seeing, but they don’t always. I think it’s great that so many foods and activities really help vision. Might as well give your kids the best shot at good vision possible. Part of it, of course, is genetics, but every little bit helps.

  6. Eye care is definitely important especially for the kids who have developing eyes. I think this is a helpful guide for parents who have no idea where to start when it comes to taking care of their child’s eyes.

  7. This is a great post! Eyecare is so important, but I feel that not enough people pay attention to it for their kids. ESPECIALLY the sunglasses. I live in Texas, and it’s a big pet peeve of mine to see about 90% of kids outside not wearing them (while the parents are, of course).

  8. These are fantastic tips to help protect our kiddos eyesight! I got my son transition glasses so he automatically has sunglasses on when he goes outside…

  9. These are great tips for keeping our kiddos eyes safe and protected ! For my little boy I got his prescription glasses as transitionals so he always has sunglasses on when he goes outside 🙂

  10. I read somewhere that kids need to have at least 40 minutes of distance looking (such as being outside and looking down the street, up at the sky, etc) for optimal eye health. I can’t remember where I read this but it was a long time ago!

  11. Man, this post was really informative!! We try to limit screen time, too, but sometimes it’s all that will keep my 8yo from terrorizing the whole house… Another thing I’ve been reading about lately as well is the specific light emitted from the LED light bulbs and how it doesn’t contain the same blue (I think?) that sunlight does, which is what keeps our eye cells healthy. Great post!`

  12. We were literally saying that we haven’t had our eyes tested this year. Need to make that appointment! So true about screen time, I know I feel like I have tired eyes if I look at the screen too long

  13. This is so important! We live in Arizona where it’s very sunny everyday. Sometimes my daughter forgets her sunglasses when we’re on vacation away from home simply because it’s not as sunny as we’re used to. Definitely not okay!

  14. I love this! I need to make sure my kids are always protecting their eyes. I think it gets overlooked amongst everything else but it’s vital!

  15. Great piece! We worry so much about sunscreen, but we often overlook the eyes. I had never really thought of it in relation to my grandkids. Will be looking for good sunglasses immediately.

  16. These are fantastic ways to help protect your children’s precious eyes. It’s so important to pick out a pair of sunglasses for them that have the right protection. So many cheapie sunglasses out there give parents a false sense of eye protection.

  17. With our children growing up on screen this is so important to think about. We just bought all our kids good sunglasses. Working through the rest of your suggestions.

  18. I think this is such a great post. I really do thing this is very important. I even try limiting screen time because I know it’s not good for you.

  19. I have good eyes but my husband does not. I have no idea what my kids eyesight will end up being, but we do our best to protect them either way.

  20. Eye care is absolutely really important not just for kids. I think a huge problem that risen is how much time kids spend time with gadgets. This post makes a lot of sense to me.

  21. This is so important. Two of my kids have to see an eye doctor every 3 months to stay on top of some issues they have. It’s so important to protect your kids’ eyes.

  22. Great advice/tips. I really wish I could go back in time with my kids. I would have put more effort into protecting my kids’ eyes from the sun. Thankfully, they are in their 20’s and have perfect vision and their eyes are healthy, but I’m sure damage has been done that will show up when they are older.

  23. My daughter used to hate wearing glasses and a hat when she was little but she’s gotten better about it now that she’s 10 but when she was younger it was a REAL challenge

  24. Great post– the sun has such a different impact these days. One of my favorite gifts to give when friends have a baby is Babiator glasses (and the best name!) Super trendy and super safe.

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