Sleigh the Holidays With Toys to Promote Healthy Vision

Sleigh the Holidays with Toys to Promote Healthy Vision
The holiday season is here, which means it’s time to start checking gifts off of your shopping list. If you’re buying a gift for a child, there are a variety of options available that can help promote healthy visual development.
According to Dr. Ruth Shoge, clinical educator of Pediatric and Binocular Vision Services at The Eye Institute (TEI), proper visual development is important during a child’s early years. It’s during this time that fundamental skills such as eye-hand coordination, eye tracking, and visual information processing are developed. The adequate development of these skills play a crucial role in a child’s educational success.
“All of these early skill developments serve as building blocks to prepare children to learn to read. Children will eventually be able to read to learn as they enter second or third grade and beyond. A delay in visual skill development may have a negative impact on a child’s academic success,” said Dr. Shoge.
The American Optometric Association published a list of guidelines for toys and games considered beneficial for children based on their ages.
From birth to five months: Bright rattles and colorful squeaky toys can help stimulate a child’s sense of sight, start to integrate their visual and auditory systems, and also help develop their attention span.
From 6 to 12 months: Floating bath toys, stuffed animals and nesting toys can help children learn to focus on an object and improve their eye tracking and coordination.  As children learn to sit up on their own, these toys can also help them gain increased motor control.
From 1-2 years old: Bright colored balls and blocks are a great way for children to learn hand-eye coordination. In addition, picture books can teach children how to recognize numbers, colors and shapes.
From 2-3 years old: Coloring books, simple puzzles and sortable blocks help children learn shape and size perception and visual memory skills. Games that require locating hidden objects are also a great way to improve their focusing skills.
From 3-6 years old: More complex puzzles and modeling clay can help children improve their dexterity, while magnetic letters and beginner books can teach children to recognize specific letters and words – a skill that will aid them in learning to read.
There are a variety of ways parents and guardians can aid in their child's visual development. Computer learning programs and smartphone games are great options as well. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screen time should be limited to no more than one hour per day for children under the age of 5 in order to prevent eye strain and other vision issues. 
In older children, the 20-20-20 rule should be practiced – every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.  Frequent breaks and outdoor activity are still highly encouraged. Studies have shown that this may help to slow the progression of myopia (near-sightedness), a condition that is now more prevalent as people have become more near-task oriented. 
When problems do arise, experts agree that early detection is essential. For that reason, pediatric optometrists recommend babies have a comprehensive eye exam before their first birthday, and yearly once they reach school age.
On Dec. 9, TEI will host an InfantSEE community event at our Oak Lane campus. This free, public event will give parents and families the chance to learn more about InfantSEE™, a program that provides no-cost eye assessments to children between the ages of six months to a year. TEI’s pediatric specialists will also be available to answer questions about pediatric vision and developmental issues.  
For more information and to RSVP for the InfantSEE event click here. To make an appointment with one of TEI’s pediatric optometrists call 215.276.6111.