Did you know that your child’s brain teaches its eyes to see? Just like our children learn how to use their legs and feet to learn how to walk over time, the eyes progress as a child grows and their environment can play a factor in this development. Healthy vision can provide a lifetime of sights for our children to experience, so how can you best nurture and protect your child’s eye health?
There are many milestones that occur in sight development in the first two years of each child’s life. Do you know what these milestones are and what to look for at each age? For a very detailed list of these milestones, visit the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) step-by-step overview of vision development here. Items such as mobiles, toys, lights and even your voice can all play a role in developing your child’s vision. These objects and the use of your voice support the development of the eyes’ ability to track and focus. They can also serve to practice eye-hand coordination and motor skills. As a parent, using a variety of these techniques with your child can help support their developing vision.
What role do eye exams play in early childhood and beyond? Although there are no set guidelines to the frequency of exams, it is recommended that each infant has his or her first eye exam within their first year and regularly thereafter. Not only can conditions such as lazy eye and crossed-eye be detected, more serious conditions like eye cancer can also be identified. Early detection for any eye issue is important to safeguarding your child’s vision.
What else can you do to protect your child in his or her daily life? Provide them with healthy nutrition, including a variety of fruits and vegetables. When outdoors, use proper sun protection in order to keep harmful rays from their eyes and just as important is the use of protective gear while playing any sports. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute “eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children and most occur while playing sports”. Use caution in your household and minimize a child’s access to sharp objects and hazardous substances. And, as always, in any emergency, call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.