Your child’s sight is precious. Good vision helps them to learn, to play and to communicate with the world around them. Yet, there are around 1.6 million school-aged children in the UK who have an undiagnosed vision problem. Children’s eyes continue to develop until they reach the age of eight, so caring for a child’s eyes in the early years can help lay the foundations for good vision that lasts a lifetime.
There are lots of simple things that you can do to help children of all ages keep their eyes and vision healthy.
Having regular eye tests – at least every two years (unless you’re advised otherwise by your optometrist) – are essential to ensure your child’s eyes stay healthy.
Eye tests will ensure any problems such as childhood conditions like squint, amblyopia (lazy eye), hyperopia (long-sightedness) or myopia (short-sightedness) are picked up early. The sooner problems are identified, potentially the better the treatment outcome.
Remember, eye tests are free and funded by NHS for all children under 16 years and if they require vision correction (glasses or contact lenses) you’ll be entitled to an optical voucher towards the cost of this too!
Eat a rainbow
Eating a rainbow of colourful fruit and vegetables helps to ensure young eyes get the nutrients they need to grow healthily. Foods like tomatoes, melon, grapes and blueberries as well as fish, chicken, eggs and whole grains are packed with eye–friendly nutrients.
Tops tips for fussy eaters
- Swap chips for sweet potato wedges
- Use a cookie cutter to cut out fish shaped pieces of cod fillet or tuna steak
- Bake some kale crisps (rub a little olive oil on dry kale leaves and bake in a moderate oven for 10 to 12 mins)
- Make rainbow fruit kebabs using raspberries, strawberries, orange segments, cubes of peeled mango, pineapple chunks, cubes of peeled kiwi, green and red grapes plus a couple of blueberries
It’s really important to protect your eyes from the sun. When you’re young the lens at the front of the eye is really clear so can let even more of the damaging sunlight in. Protect kids’ eyes whenever the UV Index rises to three or more even on cloudy days and check that their sunglasses have a CE; UV 400 or British Standard Mark as this will ensure they provide the right level of UV protection.
A hat with a wide brim can also help protect against damaging UV.
Visit the Met Office website for information on UV levels.
Research has shown that spending time playing outdoors, can be beneficial in helping to prevent the onset and progression of myopia (short-sightedness) in children. So make sure they get out and get active every day.
Act on advice
Make sure you follow the advice of your child’s eye care practitioner to ensure the best possible treatment outcome.
It’s also important that older children who wear contact lenses follow advice on how to wear and care for their contact lenses to keep their eyes safe and comfortable.
Stimulate the senses
As the eyes continue to develop from birth to around the age of eight you can help stimulate the visual development thorough play.
High contrast toys, mirrors and playing peekaboo can help stimulate babies vision whilst encouraging activities that require hand-eye coordination such as throwing and catching, or building with blocks can help pre-schoolers.