Selecting Your Child’s Eyewear — What to Know First

Careful selection of children’s eyewear is important because as your child ages, he or she will be fine-tuning the vision they have already developed.

Watch for warning signs of visual problems, such as holding a book close to the face, sitting too close to the TV, squinting, head tilting, eye rubbing, or sensitivity to light. Even if your child exhibits no symptoms of a visual problem, they should have some form of an eye screening by three years of age.

This allows enough time to catch any problems while the visual system—which is vital to a child’s ability to learn—is still flexible and can be improved. A comprehensive eye exam measures a number of visual skills that are critical to a child’s healthy vision, such as using both eyes as a team, and also tests the ability of the eyes to focus properly when reading a book or viewing a computer.

Although a child’s vision may change as often as the size of their clothes or shoes, it is always important to find eyewear the fits them properly for the age and size they are right now. Children also tend to play rough, so looking for durable children’s eyewear is important.

Because their frames and lenses are made from the same materials as adult eyewear, and by the same manufacturers, the cost is usually the same.

If you know your child is going to be rough on their eyewear and you want to keep the cost down, you will want to steer them toward frames you like, but it is important for them to be involved in the decision. If a child doesn’t like the frames you have chosen for them, they may not wear them.

Keeping Your Child’s Eyes Healthy

Eye Injury: Children should be instructed that putting on protective eyewear should be as natural as putting on a seat belt or bike helmet. This also applies to those who do not need a prescription. More than 25 percent of eye injuries occur in children under 18, and 25,000 serious eye injuries annually are related to children’s sports.

So even if your child does not need a prescription, they should learn to always wear eye protection while sporting. Most facilities that carry children’s eyewear will also carry sports goggles, with and without prescription.

UV Radiation: By the age 18 we have absorbed 80 percent of our lifetime UV exposure. The crystalline lens in the eye of a child transmits more visible and UV radiation to the retina than the lens of an adult. The lenses of patients under 10 years of age transmit over 75 percent of the UV radiation that reaches them, compared with 10 percent in those over 25.

Only 11 percent of children who wear prescription eyeglasses also have prescription sunwear. Some facilities carry children’s sunwear, but if you need to purchase them at a chain store, be sure that they are polycarbonate and block UV radiation.

Selecting a Frame for Your Child’s Eyewear

Children’s frames come in many different materials. Marchon has Nike Flexon and their own Flexon brand for children. These frames are made of a titanium-based alloy that is considered a memory metal.

This is great for children, as the frame is very flexible and will return to its original shape if it gets bent. Frames also come in cheaper metals and plastics. It is best to find a frame that fits your child properly and will stay in adjustment.

If you child is young or has a larger prescription, your optician may recommend cable temples. These are comfortable temples that conform to the shape and size of your child’s ears, making for a good fit. There are also straps available so that when the child does choose to take their eyewear off (or they fall off), they are attached by a strap that hangs around the neck.

For your teenager, most facilities will also offer children’s eyewear in tween sizes that often resemble the styles and shapes of adult frames but are more petite and colorful.

Teens are often looking for something that resembles the style worn by a celebrity, or maybe even an older sibling, but they also want a frame that makes them feel older.

Down syndrome: About 5,000 newborns per year are diagnosed with Down syndrome in the US, and 87 percent of those children will need corrective eyewear by age 3.

These children have distinctive facial features, including very small noses, shortened depth from the eye socket to the ear, and especially close-set eyes with wide faces. As a result, most frames do not properly fit their faces and typically slide down, and the temples are usually bowed and uncomfortable.

There is a frame line, Specs 4 Us, that designs frames to address these concerns. Unlike other frames, the bridge is adjusted to fit on Down syndrome children’s smaller noses, and the temples are designed to help keep the glasses from constantly slipping. If you would like more information about where to purchase these, they do have a provider locator on their web site.

What You Should Know About Your Child’s Eyeglass Lenses

For safety reasons, children should wear lenses made of polycarbonate materials, or even the newest material, Trivex. These materials block UV and are impact resistant.

Most facilities today will recommend polycarbonate, which can be made in an aspheric polycarbonate to reduce lens thickness if your child has a strong prescription.

Children’s eyewear should have the same lens features as eyewear made for adults, including polarized, non-glare lenses. A large part of your child’s day is spent learning, and 80 percent of everything children learn during their first 12 years is through their eyes, according to the American Optometric Association.

Glare from classroom lighting, whiteboards, and computers interferes with learning. Glare causes visual fatigue and headaches that take focus away from learning.

Things To Pay Attention To When Buying Your Child Eyewear

Be sure to ask about warranties when shopping for your child’s eyewear. Some facilities offer unique programs or warranty options because they know that children can be rough on eyewear. Many manufacturers offer warranties that cover scratching on their non-glare lenses for up to two years, so talk with your optician about what is covered.

If your child’s frame does break or needs repair, just be sure to have your optician repair the frame, because alterations made with glue or any other creative home repair method will often void a manufacturer’s warranty.

Most facilities will offer promotions on children’s eyewear before school starts, so that is a good time to purchase them. Just be sure to schedule your child’s annual eye examination well in advance, because pediatric eye doctors will book up during the back-to-school season, and you do not want to miss any available promotions because of an expired prescription.


Sources and References:
We have strict guidelines for each of our sources and references. We rely upon vision, eye and medical information from peer-reviewed studies, medical associations and academic research institions.
  • Credits: AOA, Specs 4 Us, Health Sight Counseling, the Vision Counsel, and Transitions ®