Since poor eyesight can lead to a decrease in a child's general awareness -- as well as disrupt your toddler's already challenging task of concentrating on a specific activity for anything more than a couple of minutes -- it's no wonder it plays such a crucial role in your child's overall development. Though a child's eyes develop most drastically during the first year, the eyes continue to change and strengthen throughout childhood. Take steps now to strengthen your tot's eyesight and prevent serious eye problems from developing in the future.
Step up the visual stimulation. Since eye muscles strengthen and nerve connections multiply constantly throughout childhood, it's important to provide your toddler with plenty of interesting visual stimuli. Invest in toys that contain moving patterns, such as pinwheels, or create patterns together with objects like wooden blocks or toddler-safe plastic interlocking blocks.
Read together. Point out pictures as you read the words or ask your toddler to point to the pictures as you read the story. By searching for the illustrations throughout the book, your child will not only exercise her eye muscles but will also improve her hearing and vision coordination.
Play games, lots of games. Any game that requires your tot to move his eyes in search of something can make his eyes stronger. Activities like coloring, assembling puzzles, tossing a ball back and forth, or engaging in a few rounds of "I Spy" can boost eye health.
Sneak nutrient rich foods into her diet. Though a balanced diet is critical for healthy eye development, toddlers should eat foods rich in antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, as well as lutein and omega-3 fatty acids to boost eye health and help to strengthen eyesight. Add veggies like carrots, broccoli, spinach, yams and red bell peppers to your tot's dinner plate, along with fruits such as cantaloupe, oranges, mango, strawberries and raspberries, to increase her intake of vitamins A, C and lutein. Peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and hazelnuts are excellent sources of vitamin E. For picky eaters, disguise veggies by mixing them into spaghetti sauce, blending leafy greens in smoothies or adding shredded veggies to baked desserts.
Schedule regular eye examinations. An eye and vision examination at 6 months of age is the best approach for early detection and prevention of eye and vision problems in toddlers, according to the American Optometric Association. Avoid future academic struggles and low self-esteem common to many children with poor vision by visiting a pediatric ophthalmologist at regular intervals: 6 months old, 3 years old, before he starts first grade and every 2 years after.
Contact your eye doctor if you notice any unusual eye problems in your toddler like crossing, drooping eyelids, pink or red eyes, milky white covering the pupil or vibrating eyes.
An untreated eye condition can worsen over time and possibly even lead to blindness.