A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Vision: Ages 0-5

Does my child need an eye exam? Many parents are unaware that by age 5, a child should have completed three eye exams with an eye doctor. Vision screenings with a pediatrician are part of an essential health plan, but to get a complete look at how your child’s visual system is developing they need comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor as they approach classroom learning.

“Three eye exams by age 5 are essential for early detection of treatable eye conditions like amblyopia, eye turns, clinically significant far-sightedness, and total refractive errors. These specific eye conditions can develop prior to age 5 and they have potential to hinder classroom readiness and learning as the child enters grade school. An eye doctor can get a complete look at your child’s eye health to make sure everything is developing appropriately for school success. It’s really about making sure each child can learn without difficulty from the visual system,” explains Sheryl Benjamin, Executive Director at the Colorado Optometric Association.

Recommended Comprehensive Eye Exam Schedule for Ages 0-5:

  • 6-12 Months | Comprehensive Eye Exam by Eye Doctor
  • 3 Years | Comprehensive Eye Exam by Eye Doctor
  • 5 Years | Comprehensive Eye Exam by Eye Doctor

One study by the National Eye Institute found that vision screenings miss detecting one-third of children with an eye or vision disorder. Luckily, Colorado infants, ages 6-12 months, are eligible for a no cost comprehensive eye exam with a participating InfantSEE optometrist. InfantSEE is a nationwide public health program offering early detection of potential eye and vision problems at no cost, regardless of income. Find an InfantSEE doctor today!

What to Expect at a Pediatric Comprehensive Eye Exam


Comprehensive Eye Exams for 6-12 months

It’s recommended that this eye exam takes place around the infant’s schedule picking a time when the infant is content and not fatigued. Infants usually find this exam painless and fun.

First, the caregiver will be asked to give a family history since many eye challenges are hereditary. At this age, the infant usually sits in the caregiver’s lap during the exam while the doctor engages the infant in testing. The optometrist will use handheld objects like lights and toys to check that the eyes are working properly together. The doctor may use drops or a spray to dilate the pupils and get a better look into the health of the eyes. Additional tests will be performed to look for nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and any risk factors will be identified. The optometrist will then recommend when to schedule the next eye exam (usually at age 3 unless the infant is high risk).

Comprehensive Eye Exams for Ages 3-5
Children at this age do not need to know their letters or numbers to fully participate in the eye exam and it’s okay if they are too shy to verbalize. During this exam the optometrist will be assessing vision acuity and eye teaming while looking for clouding of the lens, refractive error, nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, lazy eye, misalignment, convergence insufficiency, focusing problems, poor depth perception, color blindness, and additional eye health issues.

Tell your eye doctor if your child has/had any of the following issues:

  • Born premature
  • Delayed motor development
  • Repeated eye rubbing
  • Excessive blinking
  • Fails to maintain eye contact
  • Poor eye tracking

Find a Local Optometrist Today!

Eye fact

Infants should have their first
comprehensive eye exam at 6-12 months of age, then at age 3 & 5 and after every year.

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