Eye Care for Children

Vision plays an important part in your child’s development, so it’s important to keep on top of their eye health. However, it can be difficult to spot.

Most very young children have their eyesight assessed as part of their routine developmental checks. While these are very important, they aren’t as thorough as a complete eye test by a qualified optician. So we recommend that your child have their first eye test by the age of three.

In This Section

Children’s Eye Tests

ITesting before your son or daughter goes into full-time education means that any problems that they may have can be identified early, setting them up for a happy and fulfilling school life. Not being able to see clearly can be confusing in a busy classroom and can be easily rectified with prescription glasses or contact lenses.

Poor eyesight can cause learning and behavioural problems. This is especially true for young children, who may find it difficult to explain the difficulties they are having with their eyesight. They may not even be aware they have a problem at all.

Therefore, the sooner vision problems are detected, the better the outcome. Conditions such as squinting and amblyopia (lazy eye) can be treated more effectively if they are picked up earlier, which could make a dramatic difference to your child.

Children’s eye tests are different from those for adults. We use specially designed charts that allow children to recognise shapes or pictures, or even to match letters, rather than the traditional charts that you may be familiar with. This means that we can test children’s eyes even if they are unable to read.

Opticians are specially trained to test children’s eyes. They know the test room may feel intimidating to a young child so will use techniques to make it feel as welcoming as possible.

Things to Look Out For

It’s often difficult to tell whether your child has sight problems, which is why regular eye tests are so important. However, there are a number of things to look out for:

  • Straining their eyes or tilting their head to see better 
  • Frequent eye rubbing
  • Losing their place while reading, or using a finger to guide their eyes
  • Sensitivity to light and/or excessive tearing
  • Falling behind in school
  • Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
  • The presence of a “turn” in the eye or a misdirection of the eyes
  • Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
  • Avoiding activities which require near vision, such as reading, homework, distance vision such as participating in sports or other recreational activities
  • Closing one eye to read, watch TV or see better
  • Avoiding using a computer or tablet because it “hurts their eyes”
  • A “white reflex” in photographs. This is similar in appearance to red-eye, except it’s white. It is extremely serious – if you notice it, you should seek medical attention immediately.

  If your child needs glasses to correct their vision the NHS help towards the cost and this means in most cases glasses for under 16s will be fully covered.