Children are not just small adults. Their entire physiology is unique and that includes their eyes. Vision is something that we have a little when we are born, but our eyes and visual system grows and continues to develop well into our childhood years. Here are some expert advice to help your child see well and function fully while growing up.
While most of the eye is perfectly formed when we are born, the process of “vision” is formed as we grow and develop. The things that help shape our vision are forms, shapes, colors, and movement. Make sure your child has all of these things in their visual field often.
No, you’re not going to have to buy an eye chart! However, there are many simple tests you can do to see if your child’s eyes are developing properly. Take a small flashlight and shine it into one eye - both pupils should get smaller (the pupil is the black hole in the colored iris). Also, have your child watch your finger as you approach their nose with it; watch their eyes turn in toward each other to maintain single vision (about 2-4” away from their nose, they’ll likely see double - that’s normal). Also, watch for squinting and head turning when viewing distance or reading tasks - a sure sign of vision problems.
While most of us never think twice about using sunglasses while outside or driving, our kids eyes are very sensitive to this amount of light. We now know that UV light is accumulated over the years, so taking some precautions for children’s eyes are warranted. At least use a hat or preferably optical quality sunglasses that will protect the delicate structures of young eyes.
New science is showing how important nutrients in our diet help maintain eye health. However, most of us just think it’s for people over 50 years old. Wrong! Young eyes need certain nutrients (no, not just carrots) to maintain clear vision and healthy eyes.
Surveys show that more people get oil changes for their cars than get eye exams throughout the year. And even more people think that kids get their “eye check” in school. Wrong. The schools perform cursory vision screenings, which only pick up the more extensive problems with seeing far away (20 feet) when kids use their eye up close (14 inches) much more often. Many times a diagnosis of ADHD is actually a vision problem, which may be easily solved with glasses or vision therapy. Get those eye exams (from an eyecare professional) as early as one year old.
While the kid’s menu items might seem tempting, they typically consist of high-fat, high carb foods that don’t really contain many good nutrients. Stay away from the junk food at every age. Lutein, an important eye nutrient, is important at every stage of life.
If your newborn is not crawling by 6 or 7 months old, don’t be in a hurry to make them walk. Crawling is a form of muscle development that can actually affect the way the eye muscles develop as well. They should be walking at about 12 months or so, but only if they’ve been crawling for 5 or 6 months.
Remember, kids are not just small adults. Their eye exam might be much more extensive than an adults exam. Vision is not inherited, it is developed as we grow. Get that kids eye exam early and yearly to assure proper development (and more often if learning is an issue).
While watching digital images is a visually demanding task, just give your child some TV or computer time and then take those short breaks. Nothing wrong with using our eyes, as long as the environment is conducive to seeing and kids aren’t straining to see.
The bottom line is to make sure that kids have complete eye exams regularly to assure that they are seeing the way that are supposed to be seeing. Remember, they think everyone sees the way they themselves do. Resolving eye problems are easier when they are recently developed, rather than when they’ve gotten embedded into the way of seeing. And learning is over 80% seeing, so if there are any learning problems, check their eyes first.
More expert advice about Children's Health
Photo Credits: Look up on others (DSC2773) by Flickr: Fadzly Mubin; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com