It’s believed that children learn more using their sight than from all their other senses combined. If your child needs to wear glasses, making sure they wear them correctly will help prevent more vision problems in the future.
In Australia, a baby's eyes are checked shortly after they're born. However, their eyes develop quickly and vision problems can emerge as they grow.
When should children get their eyes checked?
It’s recommended that all children get their eyes checked by an optometrist before they start school, then every 2 to 3 years throughout primary and secondary school.
Some states and territories offer free vision screening programs to children at around 3 or 4 years of age. You can ask your child health nurse or preschool if this is offered where you live. You might also be eligible for free or subsidised optometry appointments under Medicare.
Could my child have a vision problem?
It can be difficult to tell if your child has a vision problem. Young children assume that what they see is normal, and they may not tell you if they’re having trouble. That’s why regular visits to an optometrist are important.
If your child is not seeing well, they may:
- squint or partially close their eyes to see things in the distance or close up
- sit very close to the television or computer, or hold books close to their eyes to see
- tell you they can't see the whiteboard or screen at school
- rub their eyes a lot
- appear to strain to see things clearly
- experience headaches
- complain of sore eyes
Managing vision problems in young children
Vision problems may be diagnosed with an eye test. In young children, near and distance vision is tested using symbols and pictures. If a child can’t understand the tests, they may be shown different sized stripes.
Their peripheral vision — what they can see outside of their field of vision when they’re looking straight ahead – will also be tested.
How a vision problem if treated depends on the problem. Treatment may include wearing glasses all or some of the time (for example, for reading). Older children may be able to use contact lenses.
If your child has vision problems, you’ll need to have your child’s eyes checked at least once every year, since their vision can get worse or improve over time.
If your child is prescribed glasses, it’s best to get them as soon as possible. After a certain age, some problems can’t be corrected and it may result in permanent vision loss that can’t be resolved with glasses.
Tips for wearing glasses
It might take your child a little while to get used to wearing glasses. But it’s important for their long-term vision that they wear them as advised by their optometrist.
Ensure glasses fit properly
The first step is to make sure your child’s glasses fit well. Ensure they’re comfortable – not too tight or loose – and that your child can see through them clearly.
If the glasses start to slip off or your child is having trouble seeing well, go back to the optometrist.
Choose durable glasses
It’s a good idea to select strong, durable frames and scratch-resistant lenses. If you can, buy a back-up pair in case the first pair gets lost or damaged.
Find role models
If your child doesn’t want to wear their glasses, point out that a lot of people wear glasses. Show them role models they know who wear glasses — such as relatives, friends, public figures, book characters, musicians or actors. Even Harry Potter wears glasses!
Introduce glasses slowly
You can ‘introduce’ the glasses gradually, through a part of your child’s routine they enjoy, such as reading a book. Eventually wearing glasses will be part of their daily routine.
Being consistent is key — for example, putting on glasses after breakfast and praising your child every morning will help them remember to pop them on.
Care for the glasses
You can show your child how to care for their glasses. For example, never put them on a surface with the lenses facing down since this can scratch them. If the glasses get dirty, wipe them with a soft cloth. Keep them in a case when they’re not using them.
Remind your child to always be gentle with their glasses — never throw them, bend them or let other kids try them on.
Where to get help or support
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Last reviewed: July 2020