The following is a guest post from my dear friend, Danielle Jerz. She is an attorney, wife, and a mom of two children, ages four and 1.
This post is a great guide on how to introduce our kids to new experiences in a fun and engaging way!
Does my child really need glasses?
My 3-year-old, DJ, needed glasses. He’d failed an eye test (common tests for toddlers include retinoscopy or Spot Vision Testing Camera) at his 12-month appointment, and a pediatric ophthalmologist suggested we check again 2 years later to see if his eye issues would self-correct.
By 3, DJ was playing t-ball and soccer, he did not hold books too closely, he did not frequently rub his eyes, and he enjoyed learning in preschool. He never complained of difficulty seeing or of headaches, and he passed his visual acuity eye chart test.
So, when we returned to the pediatric ophthalmologist shortly after his 3rd birthday, it came as a surprise to us that his vision issues had not, in fact, improved and that he needed glasses. His doctor told us that if he wore eyewear now, he might not need to in the future. So, we decided to give it a try.
Neither my husband nor I wear glasses, so we were entirely clueless about where to start. As a parent, a million thoughts went through my head: Will he wear the glasses? What will be the consequences if he refuses? Will he be embarrassed? Would he understand why he needed glasses? Will he be teased? The last question was of real concern since most of us know how upsetting childhood taunts can be.
So, I started researching where many people start these days – GOOGLE. While there was plenty of information out there about children wearing glasses, most of what I could find was geared towards older, school-age children. But my child was a toddler or a young preschooler, with challenges and needs quite different than a child 3 or 4 times his age (a 9- or 12-year-old).
How I Got my 3-Year-Old to Wear Glasses
I explained to DJ why he needed glasses. He seemed to understand, but when I asked him if glasses were cool, he matter-of-factly replied “no.” So, I slowly started to set the stage for DJ and his new glasses. Before he was even fitted for glasses, I tried to point out every adult friend, relative, stranger, cartoon character, or person in a television commercial who was wearing glasses.
I would turn to DJ and enthusiastically say look: Aunt Angela is wearing glasses. Doesn’t she look cool? Or, look at the little boy on television with glasses. I think his glasses look so sharp. Or, (your cousin) McKenzi wears glasses, do you think they look really nice? And slowly but surely, his adamant “no’s!” became emphatic “yeah’s!” Glasses were cool!
My husband and I even ordered costume glasses to wear around the house, so they wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary. We wouldn’t announce that we were going to wear them. We would just put them on and wait to see if DJ even noticed. Surprisingly, he may have only asked about mom’s and dad’s “glasses” on one or 2 occasions.
How We Found the Glasses
Because we knew next to nothing about purchasing eyewear, we decided to find an eyeglass store that carried a large variety of toddler-sized glasses. I didn’t know this at the time, but most eyeglass stores that you may find in a mall or big box retailer don’t carry preschool size glasses. You really need to go to a specialty retailer, so we chose My Eye Doctor.
I knew I wanted something for DJ that would survive all the fun things that boisterous 3-year-old boys do, so I researched brands with light, flexible, and kid-friendly frames. I also wanted durable frames because I had a feeling DJ’s one-year old little sister might get ahold of them a time or 2, and I didn’t want her to accidently break them.
At our appointment, the sales associate showed us some of the popular children’s glasses. I told DJ that he could pick out the color, but I would pick out the frame. I figured he might not be equipped to tell what styles fit well with his slender face, prominent chin, and large brown eyes, but he could have the freedom to pick the color since he would be the one wearing them every day.
DJ tried on and rejected several that I liked, but it was surprisingly easily to reach an agreement on color and shape. His Zoobug glasses came in a delightful blue – DJ’s favorite color. They have polycarbonate lenses and a scratch resistant coating and because they are a single rubber piece with no joints or parts to break, they are flexible enough to withstand all manner of contortions attempted by DJ’s little sister.
The glasses came with a detachable headband and sliding earlocks to help them stay on. He could have chosen both, one, or none of them to use. DJ uses the earlocks that fit snuggly behind his ears and prevent the glasses from slipping forward.
Informing the School
I talked to DJ’s preschool teacher, Ms. Sherry, and informed her that he would start wearing glasses. I explained that we would have him wear them only at home for 2 or 3 days and then he would wear them to school.
Ms. Sherry is a great teacher and was very receptive. She stated that she would help him keep his glasses clean and remind him to put them on if he took them off. She also liked my ideas about introducing the glasses to the class.
Time to Party
When speaking with Ms. Sherry, I’d thought, what would be a good way to “show off” DJ’s glasses and answer any questions other students might naturally have about why he was wearing them. I know! We would have a GLASSES PARTY. The day DJ started wearing his glasses, I showed up to the preschool, glasses in hand, and armed with books about glasses, cupcakes topped with a little pair of glasses (who doesn’t love cupcakes??), and a pair of glasses for everyone!
We read Arlo Needs Glasses by Barney Saltzberg and Philomena’s New Glasses by Brenna Maloney. To provide everyone with a fun pair of glasses, I’d simply gone to the closest dollar store and purchased enough sunglasses for each of DJ’s classmates and popped out the dark lenses. Voila! An affordable pair of glasses for every child!
Much to my delight, the party was a big hit. The children were thrilled to wear their glasses. One of DJ’s classmates, Kyser, asked me if I’d brought him a case for his glasses so he could put them away. I apologized and told him that I had not, but to ask his parents. Sure enough, that evening, Kyser asked his parents for a glasses case and not only that, he wore the glasses to school the next day and for the next several weeks.
In fact, Ms. Sherry, DJ’s teacher, reported that several of the children wore their party glasses (and still do) for several days after the party, and some even asked their parents if they could get real glasses (sorry parents!) because it was so cool.
I realized that all my worry about teasing was just that – my own. I came to realize that my concerns were for naught and at that age group (3-4), glasses were cool! They love to read books and are curious to hear stories about new and different things and what makes everyone special and unique.
Our Life Now
DJ is now 4 years old and dutifully wears his glasses daily. At preschool, he takes them off when it’s time for recess and nap but otherwise wears them without protest. In fact, not long after he started wearing them, my husband realized he’d forgotten them at home after taking DJ to preschool. DJ immediately had a bit of a fit (“I can’t SEEEE!”) until Dad explained that he would go home to get the glasses, and all was well.
Now his glasses are a part of his daily routine. He gets to school, puts his belongings away, washes his hands, and puts on his glasses. Like clockwork! We ask him about his glasses occasionally just to make sure they are still fitting and working for him. Santa even brought him a special case with his favorite superhero on it – Batman!
Try these Steps for (Almost) Painlessly Getting your Toddler or Preschooler to wear glasses:
- Prepare your preschooler for wearing glasses. Explain why they need glasses. Don’t assume that they won’t understand.
- Don’t share or show your concerns, fears, or insecurities with your toddler. I’ve learned from this experience that you may be worried for no reason. Even if you got glasses as an older, school-aged child, your toddler will likely have a different experience than you did.
- Introduce them to fictional characters who wear glasses. There is children’s programming featuring characters wearing glasses or that have episodes about getting glasses. For example…
- One of the main characters on the show “Little Einsteins,” Leo, wears glasses.
- Arthur from the self-titled cartoon wears glasses.
- In an episode of “Sid the Science Kid” (season 1, episode 13), Sid explores his sense of vision by trying on his grandma’s glasses.
- Clark Kent (AKA Superman) wears glasses.
- Read books such as:
- Talk about glasses and how they can help people see more clearly and how we can appreciate other’s differences.
- Research brands such as Tomato Glasses, Zoobug, and Solo Bambini for the look, affordability, and durability you think is best for your toddler/preschooler.
- Allow your toddler/preschooler to be involved in the process of selecting his/her glasses.
- Does he/she have a favorite color? Toddler glasses often have multiple color options for frames, so ask if the styles you are considering come in different frame colors.
- Let them pick out a case with a favorite character on it. Their glasses are special, so they deserve a special holder.
- We found DJ’s case on Amazon.
- Or take the (usually plain and simple) case provided by the eyewear retailer and decorate it!
- Allow your toddler/preschooler to color it with permanent markers or stickers to make it his/her own.
- Lay some ground rules:
- At the beginning, expecting your toddler to wear his/her glasses all day right away may be an unreasonable expectation and lead to needless tantrums and a battle of wills.
- In fact, your child may become averse to wearing the glasses at all! DJ’s ophthalmologist told us that often, toddlers refuse to wear them, and parents put the glasses away and try again in a year or 2.
- Of course, that is always an option, but I think there are other ways to get them to wear their cool specs! I believe that until your toddler/preschooler is accustomed to them, you should set up reasonable expectations of where, when, and how oftenthey should wear their glasses.
- Questions to ask yourself?
- Do you want your child to wear the glasses at home only? While at preschool or daycare? Only on the weekends? When they are permitted screen time?
- This trial period doesn’t have to last weeks or months.
- Slowly incorporate more time and encourage them to wear their glasses more often.
You May Surprised
You might be pleasantly surprised to find that your toddler/preschooler is very receptive to your slow and steady encouragement to wear their glasses more often, or they may even ask you to wear them more frequently once they see how beneficial they are! DJ wore his glasses at home only during screen time and marveled at how his favorite cartoon character, Blaze from “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” looked. He did that for 3 days and then wore them to school with no complaints!