Preschoolers and Glasses (Reader Q&A)

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Occasionally, readers write with questions that I know others might be able to add to or benefit from. Today we’re talking about helping preschoolers who wear glasses take care of them, remember to wear them, etc.

Take whatever I say with a grain of salt, and be sure to add your two cents in the comments section.

Q. We just found out our 4-year old son is farsighted and needs to wear glasses all the time. We picked out light weight wire frames with polycarbonate lenses and we pick them up in a couple days. I’d love to hear tips/tricks from you and your readers on getting him to wear them all the time.

A. This is a great question and you’re a wise mama to ask for advice from others! While I do have one kiddo who wears glasses, mine is 9-years old. He’s been amazingly responsible with his glasses. We bought two pairs “just in case”, but so far he’s done quite well in caring for them.

I can imagine that the case would be very different if he were younger. So, I’m turning to other Life as MOM readers to help us out with their tips and wisdom.

What tips do you have for a young child with glasses?

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  1. You’re lucky he needs to wear them all the time 🙂

    It’s so much easier than getting them to wear glasses just for certain activities etc.

    Our youngest got glasses at three [nine now] for amblyopia.

    The doctor told her [and the glasses place can tell him very seriously] that she was to put them on when she got up and not take them off, at all, until she went to sleep. Unless she was getting wet [swimming and bathing]. Period. End of story.

    Now, since she got older we have issues more often – she’ll forget them in the morning on a weekend and avoid getting them for a while, or she’ll take them off for wild play [which I don’t mind] and then not put them on – but when she was smaller it was much better LOL.

  2. I am a mom but also a teacher of kids with visual impairments. My favorite thing that we tell families to try is to all “get glasses” for awhile by popping the lenses out of cheap dollar store glasses or use readers so the child is not alone in the endeavor. You might even try getting a pair for a favorite stuffed animal. Even boys at that young age like to play parent. Then when needing to remind him it can be done as a question about the animal… I.e. “Did you put Teddy’s glasses on?”. Also keep extra cases handy or make a special one from fabric the child picked out

  3. My son got glasses at 4 too. After about a week he realized he needed them and no longer fought wearing them (he wears them all day too). I have a friend who bought her son camouflage frames and let him wear camo all week while he was adjusting.

    I highly recommend the flexible frames for boys. That’s all we will buy. Kids are so hard on their glasses – not because they mean to be but because they are rough and tumble and don’t think about it.

  4. My middle child has worn glasses since she was 10 months old. (She actually got contacts at age 4– she’s 6 now– but that’s a whole ‘nother story. ;)) Our pediatric ophthalmologist told us not to fight her– that eventually she’d realize that she needed them and that they helped. I didn’t believe him. It seemed like she was totally content to “not see.” But, I must admit, he was right. The first months were hard, but, perhaps because we let her figure it out on her own, we never had any issues whatsoever once she realized the need on her own. (I do recommend seeing an actual pediatric ophthalmologist– they really do “get” kids in a way that general eye doctors often do not.)

  5. Our son got his glasses when he was two years old and he did not want to wear them all the time. One tip that helped was to put them on him when he first was waking up and still kind of out of it. He would leave them on until lunch sometimes doing that and not even realize. Things got better the older he got and by the time he was four years he wanted to be able to see. You may have an easier time since your child already is four. I gave and still give alot of praise for him wearing them and taking care of them and that helps too.

  6. My daughter has been wearing glasses since she was 2.5 years old. She loves them!
    When we got them and she put them on, it was a bitter-sweet moment to hear her say “Mommy, look at that and Mommy look at that over there!” She could actually see things clearer! Sad for a moment to know that she had gone 2.5 years not being able to see clear.
    Therefore due to the fact that she could see things, she was excited to wear her glasses!
    She does however have her moments where she doesn’t want her glasses! Best of Luck!

  7. I got glasses when I was 3 and my husband when he was 2. Our son was 4.

    Sturdy frames, a warranty, and what everyone else has said about putting them on first thing in the morning! 🙂 Your son will realize that things are better with them very quickly and he will be fine. Kids adjust pretty quick.

    If he’s very active – especially outside – a strap is helpful. We have two different kinds for my son (who’s now 6) – one for sports/camping/scouts and another for regular school ‘stuff’. He doesn’t always need them, but they’re very handy and keep them on his face when he’s upside down on the monkey bars or playing flag football.


  8. My son has worn glasses since 4, now 9. We did not have any problems after the first couple of days. Those problems were not that he didn’t want to wear them, it was that he had a headache while getting use to them. We say that you have to wear your glasses all the time. I even require them for play time. The reason I did that was because I am a teacher and I know that the students who take their glasses off for recess and PE, usually have more problems with the glasses thing. They forget to put them back on after, they get left on their desk and the class doesn’t go back to their desk before the next activity, etc. The constant on and off, forgetting them, etc. is way more than the one or two times that we have had broken glasses during rough play. Plus every pair of glasses we have ever bought him have had wonderful service agreements. We have always paid nothing or maybe $10 to get glasses fixed. We also ditched the glass case, it was too much for a young person to handle at the time. We made a “safe” place for him to put his glasses at home when sleeping or showering. This was on top of our counter or the entertainment center. That way we would know that they would not get broke when not on his face.

    Good Luck.

  9. My son is 3 and just got classes. He complained a bit about them hurting his ears for the first week, but he can see so much better with them that he never takes them off now. He is a little young to be responsible for his glasses, so right now mom is taking care of that.

  10. How timely! We just got a call from the eye doctor this morning that our four year old’s glasses came in. Right now she’s really excited to get them so I don’t see any problems there and I know it’ll be a HUGE improvement for her so she’ll likely want to keep wearing them. She’s pretty responsible but I do worry about damage. She is four after all!

  11. Our son started wearing glasses when he was almost three. We ordered the first pair from the optician at the pediatric opthalmologist’s office. When he misplaced those, we hunted around and found a discount shop where we could order two pairs of glasses for $69 and have a free replacement within the first year. (Of course, we found the first pair while waiting for the new ones to come in, but then we had spares when the other ones broke.)

    In the beginning, he didn’t want to have them on for very long. I quickly realized that his willingness to wear his glasses, even now at age five, is directly related to how comfortable he finds them. If he keeps taking off his glasses, I always discover that they need to be adjusted and made more comfortable. He was so young when he got his first pair that he couldn’t articulate where they were bothering him. When I asked probing questions, he was able to point to the place they hurt. I find that I still have to ask, but maybe that’s just my son. He’d rather just take them off and get on with his activity than stop to ask for help adjusting the glasses.

    I agree with other commenters who have a “safe” place to put glasses when they are not on his face. Ours is the bookcase next to his bed. However, that didn’t work when his sister was cruising and toddling and grabbing everything she could reach. We used to keep them on the kitchen counter. Now we always remind him to put them in the same place every time, or to hand them to us when he takes them off to wrestle or roughhouse. Otherwise, we have to hunt around the house for the place he’s taken them off.

    As far as keeping them on, our son has been fairly good after the first month or so. Once he got a bit older, maybe 4, we explained to him exactly why he needs to wear the glasses. We gave him the same explanation that the ophthalmologist gave us, which is that his brain is learning how to understand the things that he sees, and if his eyes send his brain fuzzy pictures, his brain will learn to see things fuzzy and there won’t be any way to retrain his brain when he gets older. If ever we have an issue with him wearing glasses (and we’re sure they are properly adjusted), we return to that explanation and he puts them back on.

  12. Our daughter got glasses at 4 also. She was embarrassed to wear them at first, but was also dealing with patching her eye, so after awhile the glasses didn’t bother her as much as the patching! Once she realized how much the glasses helped her see, she couldn’t live without them.

    We have had some trouble with her putting them around the house-especially on a hot day when they’re bugging her. We’ve said they either need to be on her face or on her nightstand, nowhere else (and especially not on the couch cusion!). We have had to get them fixed a couple times, but I expected that with such a little one!

    Hope it goes well for you!

  13. My oldest got his first pair of glasses at 18 months. He could see so much better that it wasn’t a huge issue. He wanted to wear them. Hopefully this will be the case for you. The biggest thing is just the normal playing around, and the little falls or bumps that will mess up the glasses. He is almost 5 and that kind of stuff has significantly decreased. He hardly ever needs adjusting on his glasses. My middle child got his glasses at 5 months. He is 3 1/2 now. He still bumps around quite a bit, so we visit the Costco optical dept once a month (he has back up pairs).
    One thing I remember from when they first got them, and this night not be a problem since your child is a bit older, is they would just take the glasses off while playing (putting on a spiderman costume) and we wouldn’t be able to find them. Maybe have a specific spot to put the glasses (up on a table to avoid crunching them) when they need to take them off.

  14. My daughter got glasses at 4 years old and my biggest advice would be to not buy wire frames. When they lean their head against things, like the couch or car seat, the frames bend and even though they are flexible they don’t hold their lenses as well after this.

  15. For the times when he does have to take them off, you could use our silly little reminder phrase, “When they’re not on your face, they belong in your case.” 🙂

  16. My son needed glasses in 1st grade. As some of the other moms mentioned, he wanted to wear them all the time because they worked, and he could see much better. The challenge I face now, he’s almost 11, is that he forgets to change to his rec-specs when playing anything other than organized sports. As a result, his BRAND new polycarbonate lens on his regular pair has two hairline cracks. boys.

  17. My daughter is 5 and just got glasses and she needs them on all the time…she was rather excited to get them we told her they were special for her and we let her pick the color frames. So far she does great leaving them on. I would just make a big deal out of it.

  18. I’m an optician, and when we dispense glasses to littles, we teach them this saying: if they’re not on your face, they’re in the case! Make sure they have a hard case for their glasses. We’ve found that it also helps if the glasses stay with Mom at night, as sometimes the littles play with their glasses instead of sleeping. Keeping them on all the time while awake helps, too. Typically glasses aren’t broken while playing sports- generally they just need some adjustment. Breaking them happens more often from playing with them. Hopefully you bought them from an optical which offers a warranty! @ Gail-polycarbonate lenses shouldn’t crack. You should take them back and see if they can be replaced. Opticals worth their salt warranty those puppies.

  19. Our son start wearing glasses at 3 yrs. We also had to do the patching for a full year. I always purchased the warranty and boy did that help with sports and such. I also kept a spare pair and extra straps available. Never had a problem with not wearing them, in fact when he had them about two months, I found him sound asleep in his bed with them still on! When I asked him in the morning why he didn’t have them off, “he wanted to see like his brother!”

  20. Both my boys, ages 7 and 8, wear glasses. You were spot on about the “back up” pair! You will need that!

    I also recommend that you get him in the habit of putting the glasses in the case the moment he removes them from his face. No matter where you are, have a case with you!

    When the lenses get scratched or pop out, and they will, don’t freak out. I take my boys to the eye doc and have them go to the counter and explain what happened. This way, they learn accountability and I am not nagging. The eye doc will do the learning lecture for you!

  21. My son got glasses when he was 18 months old. He is EXTREMELY farsighted. He is a teenager now. I was worried about him keeping his glasses on, but the Dr. said it should only take about a week until he wanted to keep them on. I didn’t believe it because my son is very stubborn, but after a couple days of calmly putting them back on him when he took them off, he left them on. They just have to get used to ‘seeing right’ and then they like it and want to wear their glasses. We made sure they were fitted properly (we have a children’s frame shop by our children’s eye Dr. and they are the best… find a place close to you that knows how to fit children. The glasses will need to be adjusted a lot and kids are more willing to keep glasses on if they feel and fit right). Good Luck!

  22. My son got glasses at 4 and is now 10. We’ve had lots of “opportunities” with glasses! They’ve been saluted off into the lake when we were on a sightseeing cruise, floated off in the waves when he forgot to take them off before going into the water, buried in a sandbox and never uncovered again (??), chewed by the puppy, sat on, stepped on, etc. Despite all this, my son loves his glasses, wears them regularly without complaint, and is very responsible with them. However, he is a kid and stuff happens! I think you will find that, over time, your son will get used to his glasses and be fine.

    I agree with the commenter who suggested a pediatric ophthalmologist. They really do get kids. I would never, however, buy glasses from their practice – a common “racket” that can run $200-$400 pair! Take your well-tuned prescription to the 2/$69 or 2/$99 place and get 2 affordable pairs. Some will even make them in an hour or so for you. Kids frames often come with complimentary scratch coating and that’s about all you need. Don’t buy the add-ons unless you really believe they will work best for your child (like the special coating to reduce glare when viewing the computer screen). This way, when the inevitable stuff happens, you can chalk it up to experience, pull out the extra pair and move on without worrying about the $400 pile of rubble!

  23. My daughter was 13 months when she got glasses. Her vision was so poor that she was thrilled to wear them. When she was small, we had the vision center bend the arms to curve around her ears. This helped the glasses to stay in place. She is now 11 and we have no trouble with her wearing them 100% of the time.

    I began wearing glasses as an adult, and I have had several prescription changes over the years. A new prescription can cause me to feel dizzy, have headaches, or even feel nauseous. When they are not adjusted properly, or are crocked on my face, I can also have these same feelings. Your child will need time to get used to all of this. Be sure to be forgiving and understanding as your child adjusts.

  24. How did you all know that your child needed glasses when they were so young? Lots of the comments have children with glasses as little as 18 months? Both my husband and I have horrible eye sight and we are concerned that we aren’t sure what to look for with our daughter.

    1. My older boys both crossed their eyes…one at 18 months the other almost from birth. We knew we needed to get them checked because of that. With our third, since crossing eyes runs in the family, was checked very well by the pediatrician and then sent to a pediatric ophthalmologist. Thankfully he is not in glasses…yet.
      Your pediatrician should be made aware of your family’s eye history…bad eye sight on both sides. Just let them know you’re concerned about your child’s vision, and either they can look or refer you to an ophthalmologist. You don’t necessarily have to go to a pediatric one either. We’ve taken our boys to both.

      1. I actually work for a pediatric optometrist (BTW the only real difference between the optometrist and the opthalmologist is that the opthalmologist will do surgery if needed)-
        InfantSEE is a great program sponsored by the American Optometric Association that gives all babies 6-12 months of age 1 free eye health assessment to evaluate them for any potential eye health conditions. Not all doctors are InfantSEE providers- will help you find one. Most children’s exams are completely normal and they don’t need to be seen again for 2 years, but there are some that will probably need glasses in the near future- As learning and vision are connected, catching and correcting any vision problems early in a child’s development should help avoid any delays.

        Also- a screening at the pediatricians office or school should never be a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or an opthalmologist. As good as your pediatrician may be, it is a screening, not an exam, and many children who have legitimate eye concerns have been missed in these screenings.

        Tips for glasses: If they’re not on your face, they’re in your case. Always use 2 hands to take the glasses off and put them on. Eyes (Lenses) point up to the sky not down to the ground- for when you take the glasses off and set them on the counter for bath time. Don’t try to force the child to wear the glasses on the day that they get them- depending on how strong the prescription is, their eyes may be really working overtime to get things to focus – it’s ok to take them off the first day and put them away in the case. But as soon as they wake up the next morning, they should put them on and keep them on through gentle reminders- If they are in daycare, it’s best to do this over a weekend so you can be the reminder. Letting your child pick their frame (as long as it fits) is HUGE- They are definitely more excited about wearing the frame that they wanted to get!

        I would recommend getting glasses for a pediatric specialty place if your child is young or has a complicated/strong prescription- just like the doctor knows what they are doing with kids, the optical is more aware of fitting kids frames, communicating the “rules” with kids, verifying the prescriptions are right and purchasing a higher quality frame- We offer a warranty against scratches or brakes for 1 year and most children will use all or part of their warranty during that year. However, very few need more than that and many times we’re replacing the frame for some paint chips- because we can, not because the frame broke. You will spend more than a cheap optical but you are often getting lesser quality products, older technology and less trained employees as well. It is not a comparison of apples to apples between the cheap optical place and your private practice when comparing prices. In addition, you should never buy your child’s glasses online- There is no guarantee that what you are buying is what the doctor is prescribing and no one is verifying it for you before your child starts wearing them.

    2. Starting when our son was 2 he would tilt his head to the a side whenever he was looking at something up close. It was never the same side and at first people thought it was cute. then he started pulling books closer and moving right up to the TV. At one of my eye appointments I asked about this behavior and she wanted to see him as soon as we could bring him in. Turns out he was farsighted and instead of crossing his eyes he tilted his head an used one eye to concentrate at a time.

    3. My son was crossing his eyes. Everyone crosses their eyes very slightly to focus. He was crossing his eyes all the way trying to focus. My eye Dr. recommends all children come in at 6 months old. They can check their eyes without an oral eye test. They can get really close to a correct prescription without even asking the patient… the oral test merely pinpoints the exact prescription. I would recommend a pediatric eye Dr.

  25. Our daughter is 11 and started wearing them when she was 8 for reading purposes. The eye doctor told her on your fface or in the case. A really cool looking case helps. She now needs to wear them all the time. It is easier when they notice the improvement glasses make, no migraines, can see balls coming, words don’t look bubbly etc. I suggest scratch coating and transitional lenses. It not only protects their eyes in sunlight but makes them not want to trade off outside.

  26. My son got glasses at 1 year old – we could tell because his eyes were crossing. I guess that’s the young brain’s way of compensating for the double-image that the eyes are seeing. We put the glasses on him right away in the morning and immediately got him interested in a toy or activity to take his attention away from the glasses. Then just keep putting them back on if they fall off or he takes them off. Our opthamologist told us to start with a couple hours a day and work our way up. Eventually, they just became part of his ‘normal’ and at 2 years was putting them on and adjusting them himself. Go to an optical shop with a good warranty – usually one replacement lens per year and unlimited frames. They will get broken and the lenses will scratch – expect it. And work diligently with the optician to get a good fit – you want to look closely and ask questions – and don’t be afraid to go back in for adjustments. A good fit will stay on their face securely without pinching or red marks anywhere – we never had to use a strap or special ear pieces. We have wire frames – they get bent often while playing, but I can usually bend them back easily. I would be afraid that plastic would break more easily and the bendables are SO expensive. We started with a discount store ($40) just in case we had to replace them at any point – and they worked just as well as the expensive ones ($175) we got the second time. At first I was sad that my baby would have to wear glasses, but they ended up fitting his personality so well and he just looks so cute with them – and they don’t seem to bother him a bit. Now it just adds to his uniquenesses that I love about him.

  27. Um, here’s my true confession: when my 24-month-old got glasses, I bribed him with lots and lots of Reese’s cups. (gulp).

    His glasses were protective only–he truly didn’t KNOW he needed them, because they weren’t helping his vision any.

    We got wire frames, and I would add that I have been FLOORED at how effectively the eyewear specialists have been able to fix them after the frames have been mutilated by my child! He puts the glasses in hot sand and eases them right back into the original shape. Amazingly, we’ve only had to replace one pair (they were just lost, for good) in 6 years).

  28. I’ve had glasses since I was 13 months old. I’m now almost 30. My parents tried bribing me/rewarding me for wearing them all the time. I think what finally cinched the deal for me was realizing that if I wanted to see, I needed to wear those darn glasses! It also helped that I got to pick out a sparkly pair of pink frames. 😉 Best of luck to you!

  29. My son started wearing glasses at 11 months and it was a total joke. Everything in his life was close enough he didn’t really need them to see what he wanted. Once he was 4 and actually wanted to see farther away he started wearing them more often voluntarily. For some reason just saying “in situation x you MUST wear glasses” has kind of helped. He is far from wearing them as often as the ophthalmologist wants, but it’s getting better.

  30. My son was prescribed glasses at about 9 months. He has a rare disability, coloboma and micropthalmia, retinal folds and just for the heck of it.. ADHd too! ;). He was always so great at keeping them in. He also had sunglasses, those he preferred to wear. And as he grew, simple reminders were all that was needed. Once he was about 4 his vision was so bad (reads Braille now), glasses just didn’t help, he does not need to wear them for seeing, but still does wear sunglasses. Hopefully it will be such a help that he will want to leave them on! Good luck!

  31. Our son has Down Syndrome and has been wearing glasses for farsightedness full time since he was 3 yrs old. He took them off constantly for about a week when he first got them, but we were just diligent about putting them back on his face every time. Once he got used to the feel of them on his face, and the fact that his vision improved, we’ve had no problems. He’s always been very responsible with them. He’s now 8 yrs old and I can only recall twice when we’ve lost them (both times outside, but we were able to find them). We’ve never purchased a spare pair because it’s just too costly.

    His glasses have “cable temples,” which allow the earpiece to wrap completely around the back of the ear so the glasses stay on no matter what. Since Down’s kids typically have a flatter nose, it is really helpful to keep the glasses on his face (instead of on the tip of his nose). But I’ve had a lot of people ask me about them for their typical kids as well; all kids run and wrestle and sweat, and if their glasses can stay put instead of sliding off their faces they’ll be less likely to take them off and throw them in the grass! Not all optical departments will offer them unless you ask. It will be an additional cost. Since you’ve already chosen your frames, I don’t know if cable temples can still be added. You’ll have to check with the optical department where you purchased them.

    At four years old, he might be more likely to want to wear them if you let him choose the frames (not sure if he was involved in that decision or not). I’m quite certain that if our 5 yr old needed glasses and they had Spiderman on them, we would probably have to pry them off his face every night. 🙂

    For future reference, the flexible frames can be nice, but they typically need to be adjusted more frequently since the flexible material bends and gets out of shape more easily (adjustments require a trip to the optician, and we were having to get them done about once a month). We switched to a sturdier frame a couple years ago at the suggestion of our optician (our son was about 6 yrs old at the time), and haven’t had any problems with breakage.

    We also pay extra for the transitions treatment (i.e. they turn into sunglasses when he goes outside). I would recommend that if a child has to wear the glasses all the time. I love knowing that his eyes are protected from UV rays.

  32. My 4 year old just got glasses on Monday. I had a thorough exam on his eyes because every child in my husband’s family has worn glasses from a very young age. The doctor told us that he has a really bad astigmatism. When we got the glasses, I was worried about his being responsible with them. He has really surprised me. He LOVES wearing his glasses. He tells me that he CAN see better with his glasses on. I am so thankful that we got them. We don’t have any problem with him wearing them all aof the time. The only time he takes them off during the day is when he has a smudge on them and needs me to clean them for him. I am so proud of him. I can tell that he definitely needed them because he doesn’t mind wearing them. He acts like they aren’t even there. When he first put them on he looked around the room for a few minutes…and when I asked him if he could see better, he said, “yes.”. and got up to go play.

    1. I would highly highly highly absolutely absolutely absolutely recommend Rec Specs Street series glasses they are made to withstand breakage and don’t dreak like almost all other childres glasses do and they come in many fun colors and designs he will love my son does an hasnt droken his at all yet and wears his all the time ad tell me how cool he looks with him they are an absolute must for young little ones eyes and are well wort the money getting you can see all the fun colors and designs on the internet thank you please let me know what you think I would like to know please thank you.