Protecting Your Child's Eyes and Vision

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on April 10, 2023
3 min read

There are many things you can do to keep your child's eyes healthy and seeing clearly from birth through the teen years.

To help protect your child's eyesight:

  • Eat right both during pregnancy and after. Your baby will be healthier and you will set a good example.
  • Provide nutritious meals with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and up to 12 ounces a week of fish. These foods contain key antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin, E, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein, which are linked to eye health. (Buy fish such as salmon, shrimp, canned light tuna, catfish, or pollock. Young children should avoid shark, swordfish, mackerel, or tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.)
  • Provide your child with age-appropriate toys that are free from sharp edges.
  • Give your child toys that encourage visual development.
  • Watch your baby for signs that the eyes are crossed or turned out.
  • Look at your baby for any haziness or clouding in the pupil.
  • Provide sun protection when outdoors by means of shelter or UV coated lenses, especially if your child's eyes are light in color.
  • Be an example to your child by wearing the proper protective athletic gear when playing sports.
  • Have your child's eyes examined regularly, particularly during infancy and childhood.

To help your baby develop good eyesight:

  • Place toys within focus of your baby's eyes, only 8 to 12 inches away.
  • Encourage your baby to crawl. This helps develop hand-eye coordination.
  • Talk to your baby as you move around the room to encourage their eyes to follow you.
  • Hang a mobile above or outside of your baby's crib.
  • Give your baby toys to hold and visualize.

Make sure your baby is following moving objects with their eyes and developing eye-hand coordination. If they seem delayed, talk to your child's doctor.

As your baby grows into an active child, continue to encourage good eyesight by providing visually stimulating toys that will improve motor and eye-hand coordination skills. Some good examples are:

  • Building or linking blocks
  • Puzzles
  • Stringing beads
  • Pegboards
  • Drawing tools like pencils, chalk, crayons, and markers
  • Finger paints
  • Modeling clay

Experts have different opinions on vision screening and exams for children. Talk to your doctor about what’s right for your child.

Here are four first aid tips for eye injuries:

  • If your child spills something in their eye and you don't know what it is, or if there are acid or alkaline substances in it, flush your child's eye with water for at least 20 minutes and have someone call for medical help or the local poison control center. Do not stop flushing your child's eye until medical help arrives unless instructed otherwise. If possible, show the chemical to health care providers.
  • If your child is hit in the eye with a blunt object, examine the eye closely. If you see bleeding or cannot open the child's eyelids, seek immediate medical attention.
  • If your child continues to be in pain, constantly rubs their injured eye, has persistent tearing, or complains of blurry or double vision, call the doctor. In the meantime, cover your child's injured eye with a cold pack for 15 minutes every hour or so. If you are using an ice pack, wrap it in a moistened cloth so the eye does not become damaged from freezing.
  • If your child's eye is injured with a sharp object, do NOT press on the eye or eyelid. Cover the eye with a shield (the cut-out bottom of a foam cup would do) and seek immediate medical attention. If the sharp object is still in the child's eye DO NOT remove it. Instead cover the eye and call 911.