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Vision Therapy for Infants and Preschoolers

Every experience a preschooler has is an opportunity for growth and development. They use their vision to guide other learning experiences. From ages 2 to 5, a child will be fine-tuning the visual abilities gained during infancy and developing new ones.

Stacking building blocks, rolling a ball back and forth, coloring, drawing, cutting, or assembling lock-together toys all help improve important visual skills. Preschoolers depend on their vision to learn tasks that will prepare them for school. They are developing the visually-guided eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills and visual perceptual abilities necessary to learn to read and write.

This is also the time when parents need to be alert for the presence of vision problems like crossed eyes or lazy eye. These conditions often develop at this age. Crossed eyes or strabismus involves one or both eyes turning inward or outward. Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is a lack of clear vision in one eye, which can’t be fully corrected with eyeglasses. Lazy eye often develops as a result of crossed eyes, but may occur without noticeable signs.

In addition, parents should watch their child for indication of any delays in development, which may signal the presence of a vision problem. Difficulty with recognition of colors, shapes, letters and numbers can occur if there is a vision problem.

The preschool years are a time for developing the visual abilities that a child will need in school and throughout his or her life. Steps taken during these years to help ensure vision is developing normally can provide a child with a good “head start” for school.

According to the American Public Health Association, about 10% of preschoolers have eye or vision problems. However, children this age generally will not voice complaints about their eyes.

Parents should watch for signs that may indicate a vision problem, including:

  • Sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close
  • Squinting
  • Tilting their head
  • Frequently rubbing their eyes
  • Short attention span for the child’s age
  • Turning of an eye in or out
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing ball or bike riding
  • Avoiding coloring activities, puzzles and other detailed activities

If you notice any of these signs in your preschooler, arrange for a visit to your doctor of optometry.

There are everyday things that parents can do at home to help their preschooler’s vision develop as it should. There are a lot of ways to use playtime activities to help improve different visual skills.

Toys, games and playtime activities help by stimulating the process of vision development. Sometimes, despite all your efforts, your child may still miss a step in vision development. This is why vision examinations at ages 3 and 5 are important to detect and treat these problems before a child begins school.

Here are several things that can be done at home to help your preschooler continue to successfully develop his or her visual skills:

  • Practice throwing and catching a ball or bean bag
  • Read aloud to your child and let him or her see what is being read
  • Provide a chalkboard or finger paints
  • Encourage play activities requiring hand-eye coordination such as block building and assembling puzzles
  • Play simple memory games
  • Provide opportunities to color, cut and paste
  • Make time for outdoor play including ball games, bike/tricycle riding, swinging and rolling activities
  • Encourage interaction with other children