5 easy tips to prepare your child for their first trip to the eye doctor
By age 2, most children will have a yearly vision screening at their pediatrician's office. During this exam, your child will look into a device that judges their vision and looks for any abnormalities. After the procedure, you’ll receive a printout indicating whether they passed or failed.
“If your child is passing the automated vision screenings and you have no concerns, then they don’t need a routine eye exam,” says Dr. Collin Hair, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Geisinger.
If your child fails the vision screening, however, their pediatrician may refer them to a pediatric ophthalmologist for a regular eye exam.
Your child’s first eye exam doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Here are 5 easy ways to help prepare your child for a successful visit.
1. Explain the process
After you’ve made the appointment, sit down with your child to discuss what will happen during their eye exam. Let them know that an eye doctor, also called an optometrist, will examine their eyes and check their vision.
2. Get a little help from their friends
“There are a variety of children’s shows and books about going to the eye doctor,” says Dr. Hair. “Find one to watch or read with your child and talk about what they can expect.”
3. Take a virtual tour
Show your child photos or videos of their doctor’s office (or another office if theirs doesn’t have a website) online. “Seeing the equipment beforehand may help your child feel more comfortable,” Dr. Hair says.
4. Make a list of questions
It’s natural for your child to have questions about having their eyesight checked. Before their appointment, talk about their concerns. Write down their questions and ask the doctor during their visit.
5. Get them used to glasses
If you suspect your child needs glasses, practice with toy eyeglasses or sunglasses. Find a pair of inexpensive frames at your local store for them to wear around. This can help your child get accustomed to the idea of wearing them.
What happens at your child's first eye appointment
“During your child’s eye exam, we look at the front and back of the eye,” explains Dr. Hair. “We check for things like a lazy eye, astigmatism or other vision problems.”
The type of screening your child has will depend on their age. Pre-school-aged children will have a test that uses shapes and symbols. Children who can read will use the traditional eye chart.
Your child’s eye exam may include a few different tests, including:
- Vision test – Also called a visual acuity test, this procedure measures how well your child sees at various distances. It also checks their depth perception.
- Pupil check – During this test, the doctor will shine a light into each eye to check how your child’s pupils react.
- Eye movement test – This procedure checks how well your child's eyes follow an object or the doctor’s finger. Their peripheral vision will also be checked.
After their eye tests, the doctor will place a few drops in your child’s eyes. These drops dilate their pupils, allowing the optometrist to view the back of their eyes.
“At their visit, we also check to see if your child needs their vision corrected,” Dr. Hair says.
If your youngster does need glasses, finding the perfect set is easy. Browse the selection of children’s frames at any one of our retail eyewear centers. Don’t worry about trying out a few different styles. We use UV light to disinfect each pair of frames every time someone tries them on.
If your child isn’t comfortable trying on frames in person, use our virtual frame gallery (currently available at our Danville, Lewisburg and Wilkes-Barre optical centers). Ask a staff member at their visit for more information.
Browse a variety of styles from your smartphone to find the right ones for your child. Once your child chooses a style you both like, the order will be sent to the optical lab. The lab will make their glasses, which should be ready for pickup in a few days.
Eye health begins early
The idea of an eye exam might sound scary to your child, and that’s normal. “If your child is nervous about their appointment, a little reassurance goes a long way,” Dr. Hair notes.
Let them know that a regular eye exam helps keep their eyes healthy. And healthy eyes mean they can focus on what’s important — being a kid.