Glasses aren't just for adults -- poor vision is a problem that can start as early as infancy. But how can you tell if a small child or toddler has a vision problem? After all, if they can't yet read, they cannot understand a traditional eye test chart. Here are 5 ways to tell if your toddler may require glasses.
Are they squinting?
When you struggle to see something, you may instinctively squint. Squinting changes the shape of your eye, and restricts light to a more focused area, which improves your ability to see certain things. The same goes for young children. If you see your toddler squinting frequently, this may indicate that their vision is blurred. This is especially true if the squinting occurs mostly when your child is engaging in a visual activity like drawing or watching TV.
Are they sitting too close?
Instead of squinting, your may find that your child tries to get closer to the site of visual activity. Does your little one refuse to sit on the couch while you watch TV, instead choosing to get closer to the screen? What may seem like a typical short attention span may in fact be an indication that your child is nearsighted.
Do they complain of headaches or sore eyes?
Prolonged eye strain can lead to pain or soreness in the eyes, head, and brow. In healthy-eyed people, eye strain is caused by sitting in front of a screen or a book for too long. Children with visual problems have to try harder to see, causing strain to set in much quicker. If your toddler is complaining of headaches or sore eyes, try reducing the amount of time they spend focusing on tablets, computers or books. If symptoms of strain still persist, this could suggest that their vision is impaired.
Play 'I Spy'
The childhood game 'I Spy' is more than just a fun pastime. It can actually help you identify your child's visual ability by checking how well they can see their surroundings. While the traditional version using letters as a clue may be too advanced for your child, you can ask them to spy objects in more basic categories. For example, try asking your child if they can spot an animal, or something green. Alternate between near and far objects. If your little one consistently struggles to identify the objects you're referring to, it could be because their vision isn't clear enough.
See an Optometrist
While the traditional letter chart is not effective in young children who can't read, there are special eye tests for children using pictures and shapes. If your toddler is under 3, you may find it best to visit a pediatrician. Otherwise, visit your local optometrist for a test. Even if your child doesn't show any of the signs listed above, it's still a good idea to see an optometrist before they begin school. If eye problems are solved before the child begins formal learning, they're less likely to fall behind.