Vision is important for learning and for your child’s overall development. Here are some strategies you may use to help your child’s vision develop and stay healthy. The only way to know if your child’s eyes are developing properly, is by having their vision tested. Many eye health difficulties can be treated if they are caught early.
Stimulate Vision Development During Play
You can help your baby’s vision develop by giving lots of opportunities to see new things.
- Sit face to face with your baby to sing songs, tell stories and recite nursery rhymes.
- For young babies, start with books and toys that are black and white, high contrast or bold coloured.
- For babies less than four months old, move yourself and any toys/books close to your baby’s face (about eight to ten inches).
- For babies three months old and older, move toys from one side to the other so your baby can follow the movement.
- When your baby begins reaching for objects, help them practice this skill – it is good for hand-eye coordination.
- Play hide and seek games to help your baby develop visual memory.
- Roll a ball back and forth to help your child learn to follow moving objects visually with their eyes.
- As your child gets older, sit face to face with them when sharing books, point to pictures in the book and describe what you are seeing. Example: “look, that’s a bird and that bird is red”.
Draw Your Child's Attention to Things in Their Visual Environment
Help your child notice and learn about things in your home and in the environment. Talk about different things you see and what they are.
- Sit face to face with your child when playing, point out and talk about the toys and what you are doing while you play. Example: “the blue car is driving fast, beep beep”.
- Notice what your child is looking at and talk about it. Example: (Child looks at a puppy); Parent says: “I see the puppy too!”.
- Point to objects you see in the environment and name them. Example: “Look! (point) I see a school bus!”.
- Describe different colours and shapes that you see.
- Give opportunities for your child to watch you cook dinner and do things around your home. Children learn many things just by watching what you do. This is called “incidental learning” and it is an important way for children to learn.
Prevent Eye Injuries and Protect Vision
- We need healthy eyes and a healthy brain to see and understand what we are seeing. Protect your child’s eyes and brain from injury or infections that could cause vision concerns.
- Keep your child’s eyes clean – wash your hands if you need to touch your child’s face.
- Protect your child’s eyes from direct sunlight (example: in the car, play/sit in the shade when outside).
- When outdoors, have your child wear a hat that shades the eyes and sunglasses that protect from ultraviolet (UV) light.
- Avoid exposure to excessive dust, smoke and chemicals (example: cleaners).
- Make sure the environment is safe for your child to play and explore, by removing sharp edges/objects and checking that toys that match your child’s age.
- Minimize glare from screens or glossy surfaces.
- Make sure your child is not facing a bright light source (example: window) when they are looking at a person or object.
- Prevent injuries to the brain by following car seat safety, and have your child wear a helmet during wheeled activities.
Keep Track of How Much Time Your Child Is Looking at a Screen
Too much screen time can cause eye strain and fatigue and can lead to vision problems. It is important to monitor your child’s screen time.
- Limit your child’s screen time outside of school.
- When possible, use a larger font size and have your child sit further away from the screen.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows your child’s eyes to refocus and readjust so their eye muscles are not being strained.
Watch for Warning Signs That Your Child Is Having Difficulty Seeing
- If they need to sit very close to a screen.
- If they hold a book closer than 30 centimeters from their face.
- If they squint their eyes to see better.
- If they have difficulty with hand eye coordination, example: over or under reach for a toy or object – put their hand too far or not far enough when reaching for a toy or object.
- If they often bump into or trip over things.
Support Your Child’s Eye Health and Vision
- Keep track of developmental milestones for infants and young children.
- Schedule an eye examination every year.
- Eye exams are covered by OHIP for children from birth until they are 19 years old.
- You can get free eye glasses for your child from Eye See Eye Learn.
If your child has eye glasses, it is important to follow their health care professional’s recommendations and be consistent. Keep in mind, your child may need a few weeks to get used to new eyeglasses.
You can encourage your child to wear their glasses by:
- Saying positive things about glasses and people who wear glasses,
- Sharing books with characters who wear glasses, and
- Adding pretend glasses to a stuffed animal or doll.
If your child has been identified as blind or having low vision, contact Surrey Place for more information about the Blind-Low Vision Early Intervention Program. This program provides free services and support for children who are blind or have low vision, and their families.