It's that time of year again.
With a new school year under way, a lot of parents will be thinking about the best strategies to safeguard their children's eyesight in the classroom and beyond. Healthy eyes and vision are critical as kids develop, especially during the school-age years. This is when reading demands often increase and the ability to see the blackboard or view a presentation online is critical to a child's academic success. Even on the athletic field, kids must have good visual perception and hand-eye coordination to excel at a sport.
The following is a list of simple things parents can do to support children's eye health during the school day and throughout the year.
1. Schedule regular eye exams. August was National Eye Exam Month. Did you let it slip by without making an appointment for your little one? According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), back-to-school eye exams are crucial because a child's vision may change frequently throughout the year. Instead of relying on in-school vision screenings, which are not comprehensive enough to detect many of the vision problems children can experience, parents should schedule a routine exam with a trusted eye doctor. Annual exams can also also help detect any specific problems or risk factors that may impede your child's ability to see clearly.
2. Encourage a wholesome diet. We often hear that carrots are good for eye health because they contain vitamin A, which plays a role in healthy vision. However, many other foods are chock full of essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and Omega-3 fatty acids that can help keep your kids' vision sharp as they age. Some examples include broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, avocados, citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, berries, almonds, leafy green veggies like spinach and kale, beans, nuts, seeds, eggs, and fatty fish. Here is a longer list of foods that support healthy eyes.
3. Make sure they get a good night's sleep. Restful sleep is essential for every part of the body, including our eyes, which is why helping kids establish a regular sleep routine is one of the best things parents can do to support healthy vision during waking hours. Encourage kids to go to bed at the same time every night, and put away all electronics (computers, phones, tablets, gaming devices) at least an hour before bedtime. Create a calming, dark environment that helps children fall asleep naturally. Make sure dinner time is consistent, and avoid sugary or caffeinated snacks and beverages later in the evening.
4. Limit screen time as much as possible. These days, modern technology permeates every aspect of our lives—and our children's lives. In the past, the majority of a child's learning took place on paper, but kids nowadays are more familiar with computers and tablets in the classroom. On top of that, most kids have cell phones, laptops, and other personal electronics that they use for entertainment and socialization outside of the classroom. The result? Children are far exceeding the amount of daily screen time recommended by experts, and their eyes are paying the price. Developing a family "media schedule" is a great way to help limit screen time for kids and keep their eyes healthy throughout the year.