What to Expect During Your Child's First Eye Examination

Posted on: 23 February 2017

Eye tests are an essential part of overall healthcare, playing an integral part in the detection and management of visual problems. It's normally easy enough for adults who wear glasses to remember their regular eye checks, but other members of the family might be forgotten. Never is it more important to see an optometrist than as a child, when potential problems can be discovered early and treated effectively. It's generally recommended that a child has their first eye test before reaching the age of three so that any needs can be taken care of before they start school. This helps ensure they can develop reading skills normally and learn without difficulty. When children are young, the testing procedures used with adults aren't always suitable. Eye tests are usually adapted to suit small children, and finding out in advance what to expect can help you put your child's mind at rest.

Special charts

Most people are familiar with the standard optician's chart, which features letters of the alphabet laid out in decreasing size on a white background. If children are below reading age, the alphabet is unfamiliar, causing obvious difficulties. Instead, your optometrist may use a special children's chart. This features specially-designed pictures instead of letters, so your child can participate in the test easily.


When an adult is tested, they're able to make a judgement on which lenses make their vision better, and tell the optometrist. Where this is difficult for a child, a retinoscope can be used instead. This simple instrument shines a light into the eye so the optometrist can see how well it's focusing. This is especially useful for children with learning or communication difficulties, and the very young.

Health checks

The optometrist will perform some simple checks to assess the health and muscle condition of your child's eyes. These include tests for squint, a fairly common but fixable condition where the eyes point in different directions. It's not always obvious, so proper tests are important.

Colour and depth

In addition to standard eye tests, your optometrist may check that your child can see colours and depth correctly. If you're concerned that the child may have problems in either of these areas, make sure you mention it so that it can be checked out.

Other tools

Different optometrists may have different methods to test children's eyes effectively. These include the use of picture books, games and exercises, which can also help nervous children to relax while their eyes are tested.