How Often Should Children Undergo Eye Exams?
Children’s eyes develop and change quickly from the day they are born. The first six years of your child’s life are considered the most critical, and when they are most vulnerable, in terms of their ocular health. These years are important developmental years when your child learns to use their eyes and develops strong eyesight; these years are also when your child is most susceptible to developing harmful vision changes.
Regular eye exams performed by an optometrist are critical to ensuring your child’s eyes are developing properly, correct vision problems, and catch signs of more serious conditions. We follow the eye exam frequency recommended by the American Optometric Association. However, we may determine that your child will need exams more often. We will know more after your child’s first appointment.
Infants & Toddlers: Birth to 2 Years
Children should undergo their first eye exam between 6 to 12 months of age.
Your child isn’t born with perfect vision, but it improves significantly within their first 4 months. At this point, your child’s primary way of interacting with their world is through their eyes. Any undetected eye or vision problems can lead to developmental delays.
An eye exam when your child is around 6 to 12 months will allow your optometrist to check their ocular health and ensure your child is hitting their visual developmental milestones.
There are several ways you can aid your child’s visual development, including:
- Placing a nightlight or lamp in your child’s room
- Talking to your baby as you walk around the room
- Alternating sides while feeding your baby
- Giving your baby time to play on the floor
- Encouraging crawling
- Playing games like hide-and-seek or patty cake, or with toys like blocks and balls
- Reading to your child
Preschoolers: 3 to 5 Years
Preschool children should undergo an eye exam at least once between the ages of 3 and 5 years before they start school.
These years are critical in your child’s visual development. This is when they start fine-tuning their visual abilities. They begin to develop the eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills, and visual perceptual skills necessary for reading and writing. The activities and games you play with your child during these years can help improve these skills, giving them a strong start to learning essential life skills.
It is also during these years when childhood vision problems can develop or become apparent, like crossed (strabismus) or lazy (amblyopia) eyes. An eye exam performed by an optometrist (which is different from a vision screening performed by a pediatrician) is important for determining if your child’s eyes are developing properly and catching signs of possible eye disease. If a problem is detected, your child will receive the appropriate vision prescription and treatment to correct it.
School-Aged Children: 6 to 17 years
School-aged children should undergo annual eye exams to continuously check their vision and ocular health as they learn and play at school. Your child depends a great deal on their eyesight during these vital years. Undiagnosed vision problems can lead to struggles in school or cause them to avoid activities they might otherwise enjoy.
Additionally, your child’s eyes will be tasked with increasing demands, like reading, studying, homework, and extracurricular activities. Annual eye exams will help ensure that their ocular health and eyesight aren’t holding them back. An eye exam will check their:
- Visual acuity: the ability to see clearly at a distance and up close.
- Eye focusing: the ability to focus when moving between objects at different distances.
- Eye tracking: the ability to follow (or track) accurately.
Binocular vision: the eyes’ ability to work together as a team. This is necessary for depth perception.