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  • Writer's pictureMaria Cholakova

How to Encourage Good Eye Health Habits in Children?

Parents should encourage good eye health habits early on to ensure the children's vision remains resilient. This publication is a straightforward guide for parents, offering practical tips and advice to promote optimal vision wellness in children.

From infancy through adolescence, a child's visual system undergoes significant development. Eye care lays the foundation for their academic success, social interactions, and overall well-being. In this regard, prioritizing eye health from a young age supports their growth and development.

Balanced Nutrition for Bright Eyes

eye health foods

Good eye health habits in children actually start from what they consume. As a parent, emphasize the need for a balanced diet rich in the vitamins and antioxidants essential for maintaining healthy eyes:

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin E

  • Lutein

  • Zeaxanthin

  • Omega-3

Introduce a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables into your child's diet. Some of the greatest sources of nutrients for the eyes are bell peppers, berries, and citrus fruits. They are rich in vitamin C and lutein which support eye health.

Incorporate sources of omega-3 fatty acids - salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts, into meals to maintain the integrity of the retina. Also, encourage the consumption of foods high in vitamin A, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens.

Limit sugary and processed foods. Last but not least, educate your child about the benefits of hydration for overall health, including eye lubrication and maintaining optimal tear production to prevent dry eyes.

Screen Time Management

One of the biggest myths in eye care is that screen time leads to vision problems like myopia. But what is not a myth, though, is eye strain from prolonged staring at screens.

Parents should establish age-appropriate screen time guidelines for their children, as well as encourage regular breaks. Otherwise, there's a higher risk of digital eye strain, which induces headaches, temporary vision blurriness, and tiredness and may affect the day-to-day life of the children and their performance.

Below are a few tips for screentime management for children:

  • Set clear boundaries around screen use

  • Limit recreational screen time to no more than two hours per day for children aged 2-5 years

  • Ensure older children (over 5 years old) balance screen time with other activities

  • Create screen-free zones in the home, such as bedrooms and mealtime areas

  • Encourage alternative free time activities like outdoor play and reading

  • Encourage activities that promote depth perception and eye coordination - puzzles, building blocks, and board games

  • Implement the 20-20-20 rule for screentime

20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, have your child take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away to alleviate eye fatigue.

Outdoor Play and Sun Protection

child sunglasses

Outdoor activities like running, biking, and playing sports promote distance vision and eye muscle strength. Playtime in natural sunlight also helps regulate the body's circadian rhythm and supports healthy vision development in children. With that in mind, advocate for the integration of outdoor learning environments in schools and childcare centers.

When it comes to outdoor play, encourage the use of UV-400 sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. That way you shield your child's eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can increase the risk of serious eye conditions later in life. And remember, even when it's cloudy outside, there are still UV rays passing through the clouds.

Your responsibility as a parent is to be a role model and demonstrate sun-safe behaviors. You can do it by wearing sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen when spending time outdoors with your child. When you give a great example, you show the importance of sun protection for both skin and eye health.

Last but not least, your child should drink enough water and rest during outdoor activities. Both dehydration and fatigue can affect eye health and short-term visual performance.

Proper Eye Hygiene

Teach your child about proper eye hygiene.

Start by teaching them the importance of keeping clean hands and face to prevent the spread of germs to the eyes. Good eye health habits are washing their hands before touching their eyes and not rubbing their eyes unnecessarily.

Washing their face in the morning is also important. Face washing removes dust and microbes that may transfer to the eyes from their pillow or the toys they sleep with. What's more, during sleep, eye discharge may accumulate on their eyelids. So they need to wash off the mucus and prevent it from hardening and itching their eye.

If your child wears contact lenses, educate them about proper contact lens care, like handwashing before handling lenses and following cleaning and storage guidelines.

If your child wears glasses, they should clean them a few times a day. Smudged and dirty glasses are not only collecting bacteria but they are also not doing their best job to provide clear and unobstructed vision. Kids need to learn basic hygiene tips to care for eyeglasses.

Discourage the sharing of personal eye care items, eye makeup, and contact lenses to reduce the risk of getting eye infections and contamination.

Be vigilant for signs of eye discomfort or irritation in your child - redness, itching, contant eye rubbing or excessive tearing. Seek prompt medical attention if symptoms persist or worsen.

Routine Eye Exams and Vision Screening

eye exam child

Schedule eye exams for your child at regular intervals, as recommended by their pediatrician or eye doctor. Vision screenings are the best way to monitor their ocular development and detect any predisposing eye conditions.

Oftentimes children don't realize they have eye problems or low vision. So it's up to you to notice the warning signs.

Watch out for behavior like:

  • Head tilting

  • Squinting eyes

  • Eye rubbing

  • Irregular eye movements

  • Standing too close to the TV

  • Holding objects close to their face

  • Having difficulties reading

  • Having difficulties identifying objects

When you notice any of those signs, reach out to a medical professional.

Not sure when or how often to take your little ones to the eye doctor? Check out the vision screening calendar for children here.

If you want to be a proactive parent, insist on vision screening programs in schools and community settings. Not only for your child's eye health but also to identify other children who may be at risk for vision problems. For children with eye issues, timely referrals for further evaluation and treatment are of utmost importance to save their eyesight.

By fostering a supportive environment that prioritizes healthy habits and regular eye care, you can set the stage for a lifetime of clear, comfortable vision and optimal eye health for your children.

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