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Preparing Your Child for an Eye Exam

Tips for Easing Anxiety


Updated February 23, 2009

Preparing Your Child for an Eye Exam

Child eye exam

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The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that a child have his or her first eye examination by six months of age. However, most parents wait until around the fourth birthday to have their child's eyes examined professionally. Parents commonly believe that vision screenings performed in preschools and public schools are comprehensive eye exams, when in reality they are simply vision "checks." Although vision screenings are important, they in no way replace a comprehensive eye exam. Many parents ask how they should go about preparing a toddler or young child for their first eye exam. The truth is, some parents often have more apprehension than their child. Following are a few tips for reducing anxiety for both parents and children.

  • Show and Tell: Talk to your child about eyes and vision in general. Check your local library for children's books about the eyes. Try playing "I Spy" or other fun games that deal with the eyes. Help your child draw an eye chart on a large poster board for playing eye doctor...take turns being the patient. Practice putting eye drops into your child’s eyes, and your eyes as well, using a small bottle of artificial tears. When eye drops are instilled into his or her eyes at the doctor’s office, it won't be a total surprise. These ideas will get children to think about their eyes and how they use them. Some may even give you an idea of how your child may react in the exam room.
  • Take a Test Drive: If you already have an eye doctor you are comfortable with, schedule a "fun visit" to introduce your child. Most optometric offices are willing to schedule an appointment for your child to tour the office without actually having an eye exam. Many optometrists or ophthalmologists will allow your child to see the exam room, and possibly handle a few of the eye exam tools. Many offices have a "treasure trunk" full of little prizes for children. Reinforce the positive experience by allowing your child to pick one prize for each visit. (Your child may beg to go back!) If you do not already have your own eye doctor, schedule an exam for yourself to make sure you are comfortable with the doctor and office staff.
  • Relax: If you are apprehensive about your child's eye exam, your child will be too. Some parents tend to worry that their child may unintentionally give an incorrect responses and wind up getting glasses when they don't really need them. Pediatric vision is an advanced science and optometric physicians are well-trained in dealing with young children. Although examining a child's eyes and vision is sometimes a trying process, there are objective ways of determining whether or not a child needs corrective eyewear. Often, very little input is needed from the child.


Rosenbloom, Afred A., Jr. II, and Meredith W. Morgan. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Optometry. ISBN 0-397-50917-0, J. B Lippincott Company, Copyright 1990. Pp 341-343.

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