Eye tests for children: Everything you need to know about your child’s first eye test

PUBLISHED: 15:05 23 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:34 26 June 2020

The best time for children to have their first eye exam is between the ages of three and five. Picture: Getty Image.

The best time for children to have their first eye exam is between the ages of three and five. Picture: Getty Image.


When should you take your child for their first eye test?

'Special sunglasses' check if both eyes are working together to see. Picture: Getty Images.'Special sunglasses' check if both eyes are working together to see. Picture: Getty Images.

Christopher Wilbraham from Peel and Gudgin Opticians explains the best way to care for your child’s vision and why you need to book their first eye exam before they start school.

Q: When should my child get their first eye test?

A: The best time for children to have their first eye exam is between the ages of three and five. Taking your child for an eye test before they start school will help catch and resolve any eyesight issues that could affect their learning and cause them to possibly fall behind.

By shining a light into the eyes, opticians can test for long or short sightedness and astigmatism. Picture: Getty Images.By shining a light into the eyes, opticians can test for long or short sightedness and astigmatism. Picture: Getty Images.

Your child’s eyesight is continually developing until the age of nine. Correcting problems beforehand can prevent sight issues from continuing into adolescence and adulthood. The younger a child is, the more likely it is that problems can be resolved.

Spectacles can sometimes help solve the issue or we can refer your child to an orthoptist at a local hospital who specialises in treating child visual issues. If your child is under the age of three, your health visitor can arrange an appointment with an orthoptist.

Q: How often should children’s eyes be tested?

A: Most children benefit from having an eye test every two years. We can send out a reminder to tell you when you need to need to bring them in for another exam.

If we notice your child’s vision is not as good as it should be, we’ll book them in for more frequent eye exams to monitor and treat the problem.

Q: How much does a child’s eye test cost?

A: Children’s eye exams are free as they’re paid for by the NHS. Children automatically receive a voucher towards the cost of spectacles. We also have a range of spectacles that are free with this voucher.

Q: How are children’s eyes tested?

A: We tailor the test to the age and ability of your child. I always try to make the exams as fun and playful as possible to assess your child’s eyesight.

Your child will be asked to wear an eye patch and can pretend to act as a pirate as they match letters from a map. This tells me what they can see. Our ‘special sunglasses’ check if your child sees in three dimensions, to tell if the brain is using both eyes correctly.

Shining a light into the eyes allows us to test if your child’s long or shorted sighted or astigmatic. We’ll also examine the overall health of the eyes.

We award every child that visits us with a sticker for their bravery.

Q: What is ‘The Jolly Giraffe’ scheme and how is it helping to raise awareness for child optical exams?

A: In my time as chairman of Suffolk Local Optometric Committee, we set up ‘The Jolly Giraffe Scheme’ to encourage pre-school children to have their eyes examined. We gave children a booklet for parents to read to them before their eye test. It was a story about a little giraffe who had problems seeing and had his eyes examined to help.

To make it easy for parents to find out where they could take their child for an eye test, we encouraged all relevant practices to put a ‘Jolly Giraffe’ sticker in their windows.

We’re hoping to relaunch the scheme soon.

Q: How can I book my child’s eye test?

A: We’re currently performing emergency eye exams, repairing and replacing spectacles and maintaining the supply of contact lenses to our patients. We hope to be available for more routine eye examinations in July 2020.

From July the practice hopes to return to regular working hours. Opening Monday - Friday from 9am until 1pm and 2pm until 5.30pm. 9am until 12.30pm on Saturday and running a monthly evening clinic at Stowmarket.

Visit for more information.

Call 01284 754 541 to book an appointment at our Angel Hill Practice in Bury St Edmunds or email

For our practice on Station Road West in Stowmarket, call 01449 612 984 or email

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