Your Child’s Eyes

child eye health

Regular eye health check ups

Your pediatrician will check your child’s eyes and visual development during regular well baby visits. At about age three and a half, your child’s doctor will test your child’s visual acuity — how clearly he or she can see. 

Around age five, your pediatrician will check your child’s vision again. If there are issues at this point, your child’s doctor may recommend that your child see an optometrist. 

If your child needs glasses, you’ll take him or her to visit an eye doctor every year.

Encourage visual development 

Babies’ visual abilities develop naturally. Read books with your baby, make simple brightly colored toys available, and spend plenty of time looking at your baby and talking to him or her. These ordinary actions provide all the visual stimulation your infant needs

Infants can focus best at a distance of about 8 inches to 14 inches. This is about the distance from your eyes to your baby’s eyes when you feed or cuddle her. It takes a while for infants to see colors completely and to refocus at different distances. 

Babies like to look at faces. Look at your baby and talk to him. This is a natural way to encourage visual development.  Click To Tweet

As your baby grows, give him or her plenty to look at. Walk around the room or around the block, taking time to let your baby look at things she finds interesting. Talk about the things you see. Read picture books to your baby, especially those with simple black and white pictures or bright colored patterns. Put a bright toy about a foot away from Baby during Tummy Time, and consider using a mobile over Baby’s bed. 

At about three months, your baby will begin to track moving objects. By four months, babies begin to have some depth perception. At this age, your child might enjoy having you move simple bright objects around for her to watch. Soon she will try to grab objects. 

By one year, your baby will enjoy games like Peekaboo or hiding toys beneath a blanket and uncovering the hidden objects. Keep reading to your baby and limit screen time as much as possible. He will begin to recognize people and enjoy looking in a mirror.

Between three and five years, your child will develop the same ability to see that you have. Continue to read story books, and play visual games like matching pictures, putting puzzles together, and identifying shapes and colors.

Common eye problems

New babies may sometimes look cross-eyed, but this should end after a few months. If your baby’s eyes don’t seem to work together by six months, ask your doctor. 

Amblyopia, sometimes called “lazy eye,” is a common condition that can be treated in babies and young children. The brain, in order to adjust for a difference in vision between the two eyes,  begins to ignore the information from one eye. Amblyopia may be caused by a droopy eyelid, by eyes that don’t align together (strabismus), or by an eye disorder such as cataracts. Since failure to treat amblyopia early can lead to permanent vision loss, it’s important to check for amblyopia early.

Refractive disorders such as nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia) are often noticed first at school. If you notice your child squinting, avoiding reading, turning or tilting her head to look at things in front of her, or rubbing her eyes, make an appointment with your doctor.

Other signs of eye trouble:

  • Watery eyes
  •  Eye pain
  • Bulging or swollen eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Red eyes
  • Crusting around the eyes

Eye safety

Choose safe toys for babies, and be careful about sharp corners in the nursery. Age-appropriate toys and activities can help keep your child’s eyes safe. 

Keep household chemicals like cleaners in cabinets which small children can’t reach or open. Use car seats correctly. Keep children away from darts, bows and arrows, firearms, and any other projectiles. These basic safety measures can help you avoid eye injuries which can lead to a loss of vision.

When kids get older and get involved with sports and hobbies, they should use protective eye gear whenever it’s needed. Almost 25% of pediatric eye injuries in the U.S. are related to sports and recreation. Provide a good example for your child by using safety glasses and helmets yourself.

If you have concerns about your child’s vision or eye health, ask your pediatrician.