Healthy eyes and vision are a critical part of any child’s development. At this age, your preschooler is developing hand-eye coordination and visual perception, which is necessary for reading and writing.
Everyday tasks such as building with blocks, coloring and playing ball all improve your child’s visual abilities.
That’s why it’s important your children’s eyes get checked regularly to ensure their vision is developing normally. Their vision now will guide other learning experiences that will give them a head start in school and throughout life.
The American Optometric Association recommends children get a comprehensive eye exam before their first birthday, at least once between ages 3 and 5, again before they enter first grade, around age 6, and annually thereafter.
“Even with vigilant parents, visual problems can still be missed without a comprehensive eye exam,” said Dr. Sarah Guillette, an optometrist at Akron Children’s Vision Center. “A comprehensive eye exam includes the use of dilation drops to accurately assess a child for glasses and determine the health of the eye, inside and out.”
Certain factors can put your preschooler at greater risk for vision problems, including:
- Prematurity or low birth weight
- Family history
- Neurodevelopmental disorders
- Eye injury or disorders
About 10% of preschoolers have eye or vision problems, according to the American Public Health Association. Common eye diseases and vision problems, such as amblyopia (“lazy eye”), strabismus (eye misalignment) and refractive errors (i.e. farsightedness), often have better outcomes if caught early.
Dr. Guillette suggests you keep an eye out for these 12 signs your preschooler may have vision problems because typically at this age, kids won’t complain about their eyes.
- Constant eye rubbing or blinking
- Clumsy, difficulty with stairs
- Sitting too close to the TV
- Holding toys or books up close to their face
- Difficulty with hand-eye coordination while playing ball
- Frequent headaches from trying to focus so hard
- Extreme light sensitivity
- Poor visual tracking (following an object)
- Abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes
- Chronic redness or tearing of the eyes
- A white pupil instead of black
If you notice any of these symptoms or your preschooler has never had a comprehensive eye exam, schedule an appointment with an optometrist. Don’t worry if your child can’t read or even identify letters yet. It’s not necessary for a complete exam.
“We can objectively find results through a comprehensive eye exam without needing children to verbally cooperate with us,” said Dr. Guillette.