Back-to-school for many kids and families is going to look a lot different this year. But whether your child is going back to a classroom, continuing their education online, or both, their eye health should be top of mind. Whether they will be looking at board through a sea of scattered desks or spending more hours than usual focusing on a screen, their visual demand will be heightened.

A great way to ensure your child’s eyes are ready to take on a year of learning is to take them for a comprehensive eye exam, which can start as early as 6 months of age.

“In the younger age groups, approximately 80% of learning is visual, so ensuring you little ones have clear and comfortable vision is incredibly important.  Ultimately, we don’t want them to encounter any visual difficulties that could interfere with their schoolwork and love of learning,” says Dr. Danielle Gordon.

“During their eye exam, we check to make sure they can see clearly for distance and near work, that their eyes move and team well together, and that their focusing ability is accurate. We also make sure to take a good look at your child’s ocular health to make sure there are no underlying health concerns,” adds Dr. Danielle.

For parents, it’s also important to look out for signs of potential eye health issues in their children.

“Some visual concerns can present with signs or changes in your child’s behaviour. Watch for squinting, closing one eye, eye rubbing, or avoidance of work they previously enjoyed (for example, reading) as signs that your child may be having visual difficulties,” says Dr. Danielle.

However, not every eye issue will present with signs or symptoms from your child, so regular eye exams are crucial in ensuring your child’s eyes healthy. Currently, eye examinations are covered by Alberta Health Care for Albertans under the age of 19 and over 65, so if you are concerned at all, do not hesitate to make an appointment.

There are also considerations toward eye health to be made when packing your child’s lunch and the food they eat.

“We truly believe that food is the first medicine and a general good rule to follow is that what’s good for your body is good for your eyes,” says Dr. Danielle. “We recommend a diet of full green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, and deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables, like orange peppers, blueberries, and raspberries.”

Dr. Danielle also encourages her patients to enjoy nuts, beans, eggs, and other alternative protein sources, as well as oily fish, like salmon and tuna. Supplementing with high-quality multivitamins and omega 3 are also helpful.

If your child does happen to need glasses, so many style options are now available that it makes the experience less daunting and more inviting.  Eyewear shopping for kids can even be fun! Sphere Optometry’s resident eyewear expert, Bethany Thompson says that it’s important for your child to be involved in selecting their frame because it will make them more likely to enjoy wearing them. But there is more to note when selecting a child’s frame.

“Kids are often really busy and active, so choosing a durable frame can be quite important,” Bethany says. “Also, it’s important to protect our children’s eyes from the sun, so either a separate pair of sunglasses or transition lenses that darken automatically are great ways to incorporate sun safety on a daily basis.”

Photo by Annie Spratt