Sight development in young children
Sight development in young children

Sight development in young children

Our sight develops rapidly during the first year of life. Learn more about eye development in babies, toddlers and young children.

Supporting early development

Parents can support visual development with plenty of eye contact, by using toys of contrasting colours, having mobiles over the cot and checking that their eyes follow a moving toy accurately. An eye examination should be done at six months – sooner if there are signs of problems, or if there is a family history of eye conditions.

What to look for

Toddlers are too young to understand or communicate a vision problem. Signs to look out for include:

  • Eyes not moving in unison
  • Avoiding bright lights
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Frequently bumping into objects
  • Squinting or turning the head on an angle
  • Eye-rubbing
  • Sitting too close to the TV
Little girl close to screen to see it clearly

Eye conditions in toddlers

As children grow and become more active, eye conditions are more likely to occur. Common problems among toddlers include the following:

Lazy eye (Ambylopia)

If your child has a squint or a droopy eyelid, they could have a 'lazy eye.' Regular eye examinations will ensure early diagnosis and a suitable course of treatment.

Squint (Strabismus)

Known as 'cross eye', one eye looks straight ahead, and the other looks away. If spotted early, wearing a patch for a period of time will help to correct the problem.


If your child gets confused when reading or struggles to read easily, they could have astigmatism (blurred vision). Some simple reading exercises at an opticians can be done to test their vision.

Little boy sat on floor struggling to read book due to astigmatism

Long-sightedness (Hyperopia)

If your child can see objects at a distance clearly but struggles to focus on objects when they are close up, this could be a sign of long-sightedness. Your child may complain of headaches and or have tired eyes as they have to regularly strain to see things clearly. If you notice these signs you can get their eyes checked by an optician, even if they cannot read or identify letters.

Short-sightedness (Myopia)

If your child suffers from short-sightedness they will find it difficult to see things in the distance clearly. You can spot signs of short-sightedness by monitoring your child’s activities, do they sit close to the television, do they have to be close to objects to be able to identify them? Again, eye tests can be done even if your child isn’t reading or cannot identify letters.


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