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Vision Facts for Preschool Children

Vision Problems of Preschool Children

During the preschool years from ages 3 to 6, your child will be fine-tuning the vision and visual skills he or she already has developed during the infant and toddler years.

Preschool vision tasks vary with a child’s age and activities. For example, many young preschoolers are learning to ride tricycles and master the complex eye-hand coordination needed to pedal, steer and watch where they’re going at the same time.

Older preschoolers are learning how to integrate vision and body motions (motor skills) by playing sports such as baseball (keep your eye on the ball!), and working on the fine motor skills needed to write their names.

Timely eye exams help ensure your preschooler’s vision is developing properly.

Warning Signs

If you have children between the ages of 3 and 6, be aware of these warning signs of possible preschool vision problems:

  • Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
  • Squinting
  • Tilting the head to see better
  • Frequently rubbing eyes, even when not sleepy
  • Shielding eyes or other signs of sensitivity to light
  • Excessive tearing and watery eyes
  • Closing one eye to read, watch TV or see better
  • Avoiding activities that require near vision, such as coloring or reading, or distance vision, such as playing ball or tag
  • Complaining of headaches or tired eyes

Schedule an appointment if your preschooler exhibits any of these signs.

The First Eye Exam

Even if your child exhibits no symptoms of a refractive error or other preschool vision problems, he should have an eye exam by the age of 3 years and again before entering kindergarten, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).

Having a complete eye exam before your child enters school allows enough time to catch and correct any vision problems that may interfere with learning.

Should your child require correction for any visual problem, be it nearsightedness, farsightedness or strabismus, the AOA recommends an exam every year. In many cases, an early or mild nearsighted correction does not need to be “treated” with glasses immediately as most of children’s environment and learning occurs in a mid to near range, which they may see quite well.  A yearly exam allows your eye care practitioner to stay on top of your child’s visual needs, as well as ensure that your child’s prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses is still correct.

Make sure your child receives a comprehensive eye exam from an eye care practitioner, not just vision screenings from school nurses or pediatricians. Vision screenings may help spot problems, but they often miss them, too, because they are not complete tests. And screenings typically are administered by people who, despite being well-intentioned, don’t have enough eye-specific training to catch all vision and eye health problems.