Eye health is a critical piece of our overall health. To create healthy habits around eye health and get into the routine of regular visits, it’s important to take your kids to visit an eye doctor at the earliest recommended opportunity. There’s so much physical development and learning that occurs for young children, and eye health is a big part of this.
If you have a young child and the idea of sitting through an eye exam makes you think twice, don’t worry, we’ve got some great tips for you. In this blog you’ll learn how to prepare your child for their first exam, how to help them through it, and the benefits of getting regular eye exams.
Eye Health for Kids
Before we get into the prep for their first eye exam, let’s learn why regular eye exams are so important for kids. The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that a child receives their first eye exam between the ages of 6 and 9 months, followed by at least one more between the ages of 2 and 5, and annual exams for school aged kids between the ages of 6 and 19. This frequency assumes that the child is low-risk, without a family history that needs to be considered, or pre-existing conditions that would require more frequent eye exams.
Kids develop and grow very quickly. And their vision and eye health can change fast too. Regular eye exams can help catch problems before they impact other parts of a child’s development. Vision is a critical piece of the learning pathway, and as kids get older, vision problems provide obstacles to their learning. There’s so much for your child to see and learn, we want to be sure they have the best vision experience as possible.
Prepping for Your First Kids Eye Exam
The idea of taking your young child for their first eye exam might seem intimidating, but there’s nothing to fear. Eye exams are generally quick and painless. And, they’re age-appropriate. For example, eye exams for kids who are infants and toddlers rely on objective tests, while older children like teenagers will have more subjective input in their exam.
For very young children (between 6 - 12 months), try to stick to their regular routine before their appointment. The less fuss you make about their visit, the more likely they are to be calm when you arrive. For toddlers, it can be helpful if they’ve seen or heard about eye doctors before their appointment. You can read stories with your child where the characters visit a doctor or eye doctor. This is especially helpful for older children to help them imagine what the process will be like. But again, try not to build it up too much.
For older kids ahead of their first exam, prep them for the experience by letting them know it will be a fun and different thing to do, and describe some of what the exam might include or questions the optometrist may ask. The optometrist will help keep eye exams for kids fun, possibly even making games out of some elements of the exam where possible.
Kids Vision - What to Watch For
Eye exams for kids are an important part of their overall health, but outside of the eye doctor’s office try to pay close attention to your child’s vision. Watch how they look at things both at home and outside the home if you can, like at school. Some signs that your child may need an eye exam include:
- Sitting too close to the TV or board at school
- Squinting or signs of eye discomfort
- Difficulty with coordination
The Cost of Eye Exams
The cost of a kid’s eye exam will differ by province, but many provinces offer coverage for eye exams and corrective lenses within the provincial health care program, up to a certain age. Check your province’s coverage to find out what your child is covered for.
If you need additional coverage for your kids’ eye health, including exams and corrective lenses, you can check out GMS Personal Health insurance. Plans like OmniPlan® and ExtendaPlan®, offer vision care coverage for you and your family.