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How to Help your Child Develop Healthy Vision

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.


What you need to know about your child's vision:

Your child's vision will develop in stages. You can help your child's vision develop during the first 2 years. You can also help keep your child's vision healthy.

Eye Anatomy

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child gets chemicals in his or her eye.
  • Your child has a foreign object in his or her eye.
  • Your child's eye is bleeding or looks different than usual.
  • Your child has a sudden change in his or her vision.
  • Your child's contact gets stuck in his or her eye.

Call your child's ophthalmologist or doctor if:

  • Your child gets hit in the eye with an object.
  • Your child has eye pain or sensitivity to light.
  • Your child has red eyes and yellow or green eye drainage.
  • Your child's eye is swollen or you see a bump on the eyelid.
  • Your child feels like there is something in his or her eye.
  • Your child has blurry vision or changes in vision.
  • Your child's eyes cross or one eye points the wrong way.
  • Your child has difficulty following an object with his or her eyes.
  • Your child blinks or rubs his or her eyes a lot.
  • Your child's pupil is white.
  • Your child holds things close when looking at them.
  • Your child shuts or covers up one eye when trying to see something.
  • Your child squints or frowns while looking at objects.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

What you can do to help your child's vision develop from birth to 2 years:

  • Birth to 4 months: From birth to 3 months, your baby can focus on objects that are 8 to 10 inches from his or her face. Your baby's eyes may wander or cross until he or she is 2 months old. At 2 to 4 months, your baby can follow a moving object with his or her eyes. He or she can focus on faces or other objects that are near them. At 4 months, your baby can see different colors. The following can help your child's early vision develop:
    • Put a night light or dim lamp in your baby's room.
    • Change the position that you lay your baby in his or her crib.
    • Keep toys and other objects 8 to 10 inches from your baby's face.
    • Alternate right and left when you hold and feed your baby.
  • 5 to 8 months: Your baby will start to control his or her eye movements. Your baby's eyes should not cross or wander. He or she will be able to see in 3 dimensions and will reach for objects that they follow with their eyes. Your baby may begin to crawl during this time. The following will help develop hand-eye coordination:
    • Hang a mobile or other objects across your baby's crib. Make sure it is close enough to grab, kick, and play with. Keep these objects out of reach when placed in the crib to sleep.
    • Give your baby time to play and explore objects on the floor.
    • Place plastic or wooden objects into his or her hands.
    • Gently move your baby's hands to play games such as patty cake.
  • 9 to 12 months: Your baby can see objects that are farther away. He or she will use his or her hands to grasp objects. The following will help your child's depth perception (see how far away an object is):
    • Encourage your baby to crawl. Stand away from your baby and call his or her name.
    • Play hide and seek games with your baby.
    • Name objects as you pick them up or point to them.
  • 1 to 2 years: Your child can recognize pictures and objects in books and may point to them. He or she may scribble with a pencil or crayon. The following may help your child's vision develop:
    • Roll a ball back and forth on the ground.
    • Read to your child and point to pictures.
      Read with Your Child
    • Let your child play with building blocks that are different sizes and shapes.

What you can do to keep your child's vision healthy:

  • Have your child's eyes checked every year. A child with a high risk for eye problems may need to have his or her eyes checked more often. This includes children who were born prematurely (early), or have a disease or condition that affects the brain. Early diagnosis and treatment of vision problems or eye diseases may prevent permanent damage.
  • Offer your child foods that contain eye-healthy nutrients. Eye-healthy nutrients include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Examples of foods that contain these nutrients include spinach, peanuts, salmon, collard greens, avocados, squash, eggs, and blueberries. Ask your child's healthcare provider for a full list of foods that contain eye-healthy nutrients. Your child may also need to take a vitamin or supplement to help him or her get enough of these nutrients.
    Eye Health Nutrition
  • Encourage your child to wear safety glasses, eye shields, or goggles. He or she should wear these any time he or she does an activity that increases his or her risk for an eye injury. Examples include swimming, racquetball, or lacrosse.
  • Help your child prevent eye infections. An eye infection may be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Teach your child to wash his or her hands often. Wash your hands before and after you touch your child's eye. Encourage your child not to share eyedrops with anyone. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to put in eyedrops correctly.
  • Encourage your child to wear sunglasses. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can be harmful. Make sure sunglasses and ski goggles have UV protection.
  • Limit your child's screen time. Screen time is the amount of television, computer, smart phone, and video game time your child has each day. It is important to limit screen time. This helps your child get enough sleep, physical activity, and social interaction each day. Your child's pediatrician can help you create a screen time plan. The daily limit is usually 1 hour for children 2 to 5 years. The daily limit is usually 2 hours for children 6 years or older. You can also set limits on the kinds of devices your child can use, and where he or she can use them. Keep the plan where your child and anyone who takes care of him or her can see it. Create a plan for each child in your family. You can also go to for more help creating a plan.
  • Help protect your child's eyes during screen time. Too much time spent watching TV, playing video games, or staring at the computer can cause vision problems. Have your child take breaks from these activities every 20 minutes.

What to do if your child has an eye injury:

Early treatment for eye injuries can prevent permanent eye damage. Do the following to care for your child's injury until he or she can get help:

  • Rinse chemicals or foreign objects out of your child's eye. Rinse the eye with water for at least 10 minutes. Put your child in the shower or pour water into the eye with a clean cup. Do not let your child rub his or her eye. Examples of chemicals include cleaning sprays and pesticides. Examples of foreign objects include dust and metal.
  • Apply ice on your child's eye if he or she is hit with an object. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Do not remove any object that is stuck in your child's eye. This may cause more injury. Put a loose bandage over your child's eye and seek care immediately.

Follow up with your child's doctor as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

© Copyright Merative 2022 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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