Every experience a child has is an opportunity for them to grow and develop. Pre-schoolers 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. They are developing the visually-guided eye-hand-body coordination, fine motor skills and visual perceptual abilities necessary to learn to read and write.
Steps taken at this age to help ensure vision is developing normally can provide a child with a good "head start" for school.
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.
Signs of Eye and Vision Problems
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
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 with an eyecare professional. Your pediatrician can refer you to an eye doctor.