During the preschool years, a child will be fine-tuning the vision and visual skills that he or she already developed during the infant and toddler years.
August is National Children's Eye Health and Safety Month and a great time to teach children about the importance of taking care of their eyes.
Warning Signs of Possible Preschool Vision Problems
- Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
- Tilting the head to see better
- Frequently rubbing eyes, even when not sleepy
- Shielding eyes or other signs of sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing and watery eyes
- Closing one eye to read, watch TV or see better
- Avoiding activities that require near vision, such as coloring or reading, or distance vision, such as playing ball or tag
- Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
The Sense of Sight
Using Our Eyes: Ask children what they use their eyes for. Make a chart about what they use their eyes for at school and at home.
No Sight: Have children cover their eyes, and ask if they can see. Explain to the child that we use our eyes to see and to imagine a world without sight. Ask questions such as What sights would you miss the most?, What activities would be more difficult?, Which would be impossible?
Braille: Give children a blindfold to wear. Explain to them that people without their sense of sight have a special way to read. Present books written in braille to the child and let them explore what it would be like to read without a sense of sight.
What's Missing?: Show kids a group of items. Have them look at the items for a minute or so. Ask them to close their eyes and take away an item. See if they are able to tell which item was taken away. Explain that they used their sense of sight to determine this.
Guess the Object: Blindfold one child, and have another child give them an object from the room. Ask the blindfolded child to guess what the object is. Tell children that when you don't have your sense of sight, you have to use other senses to feel what things are.
What Eyes Can Do Song (Tune: Hokey Pokey):
You move your eyes up, (Look up)
You move your eyes down. (Look down)
You squeeze your eyes closed, (Shut your eyes)
Then you make them go around. (Roll eyes)
You do the blinky- blinks (Blink)
And then you look from left to right. (Look from left to right)
That's what our eyes can do. Whew!
Protect Your Eyes
Explain to children that their eyes are special. If they damage them, they won't grow back like hair or nails. There are many times that children need to make sure their eyes are protected.
Sun Safety- Tell children that sunglasses can help protect their eyes from the sun and it is a good idea to wear them when outside.
Sunglasses Exploration: Show children a box of sunglasses and encourage them to look, touch, and talk about them.
Sunglasses Sort: Have children to sort sunglasses according to size, color, shape, and style.
Sports Safety- Explain that sports-related eye injuries can happen and that protective eyewear is needed when playing sports.
Eyewear Discussion: Pass around different forms of protective eyewear (goggles, eye guards, sports glasses, football helmet, etc.) and ask children what types of sports people should wear these.
Protective Eyewear Match: Use these printables to have children match eyewear with the sport they are used for.
Classroom Safety- Tell children that they should never throw toys or shoot rubberbands at another child's face. Ask children what times they should wear protective eyewear at school (ie. Woodworking, Science experiments).
The Eye Doctor
Optometrist Office - Dramatic Play: Set up an optometrist office. Provide eye charts, plastic glasses, white T-shirts, a telephone, chairs, notepads, pencils, magazines, small pen lights etc.
Eye Doctor Visit: Invite an optometrist to visit the class and talk about the importance of eye exams and keeping your eyes healthy.
Eye Doctor Resources from NickJr.com: Going to the Eye Doctor - Printable games, activities, certificates, and stickers to help prepare your preschooler for that first visit to the eye doctor for an eye exam.
Printable Eye Charts: Have children read letters from a distance by covering one eye.