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Your Child’s Eyes as they Age

Through a child’s eyes, the world can be full of wonder, where everyday objects possess extraordinary powers, and simple pleasures create lasting memories. However, beyond the ability to see the world with spirit and imagination, a child’s actual vision needs are just as unique and important.

Even under normal circumstances, a child’s vision can change more frequently than the average adult. The problem is that we usually do not see it happening. Children may not complain about their vision and think the way they see is normal. Parents also may not easily recognize the signs.

Infant Vision: Birth To 24 Months

Babies are not born with all their visual abilities. Just like they learn to walk and talk, babies learn to see. If an infant’s eyesight isn’t on the right track, eye and vision problems can cause developmental delays. Between six months of age and two years, a child should have an eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The doctor will check for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, amblyopia (or “lazy eye”), proper eye movement and eye alignment, how the eye reacts to light and darkness, and potential signs of eye health problems.

Signs of a possible vision problem:

  • Chronic redness in the eye
  • One eye moves and the other does not
  • One of the eyes is mis-aligned compared to the other
  • One eye does not open
  • Persistent rubbing
  • A bulge in the eye
  • A drooping eyelid
  • Squinting
  • Tilting the head when looking at things
  • Eyes do not follow a toy moved from side to side in front of the child

Preschool Vision: 2 to 5

About 80% of learning in a child’s first 12 years come through the eyes. But according to the American Public Health Association, 10% of preschoolers already have vision deficiencies. Taking steps now to see that vision is developing normally can help a child get off to the right start in school. The American Optometric Association recommends that after their initial exam in infancy, children should again receive an eye exam before entering school.

Signs of a possible vision problem:

  • Looks cross-eyed, or eyes do not work in unison
  • Closes one eye while reading or examining an object
  • Tilts the head when looking at something
  • Rubs eyes when not sleepy
  • Excessive tear production
  • Overly sensitive to light
  • Has white, grayish-white or yellow colored matter in the pupil of the eye
  • Bulging eyes
  • Redness in eyes that does not lessen in a few days

School-Aged Vision: 6 To 18

As children get older, parents should take their children to the eye doctor even if they do not complain of problems seeing. And one in every four children has a vision problem that can interfere with learning and behavior. While simple eye checks, including vision screenings at school, can help detect common problems such as difficulty seeing from a distance, they may not catch all types of vision disorders. And they are not designed to evaluate the health of the eyes.

Signs of a possible vision problem:

  • Needs to hold a book very close while reading
  • Squinting
  • Recurrent headaches
  • Complaints of achy, tired eyes
  • Eyes don’t seem to work in unison

Early detection and vision correction improves their development and future.


Dr. John Lahr is the medical director at EyeMed Vision Care, which administers Delta Dental of Arizona’s DeltaVision plans, and has 48 years of experience in eye care delivery and vision care.

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