Teaching small children to take care of their eyes
It was one week ago that many young children were visited by the Easter Bunny bearing gifts bundled into colorful baskets. However, he is not the only rabbit that visits young children in our area. Throughout the year, another bunny makes appearances at preschools, daycares and libraries touting important messages to young children about eye health and eye safety.
C. Well Bunny is a friendly 12-inch hand puppet that shares basic tips with children on how to take care of their eyes. He was developed by the Center for Vision Loss, Allentown, as an interactive program to teach children about the importance of their eyes and to introduce vision screenings. C. Well Bunny is an important part of the Prevention of Blindness Program at North Central Sight Services Inc. He is accompanied by a coloring book and an enthusiastic partner, Prevention of Blindness Coordinator Mary Crawley. Together, they visited 1,108 children last year.
While C. Well Bunny has an adorable way of attracting a child’s attention, remembrance of his appearance can be lost between papers sent home with the children at the end of the day. In a blink of an eye, his important messages are out of sight. What can we do as parents, caregivers and mentors to help protect a child’s sense of sight which accounts for 80 to 90 percent of how he or she learns? The answer lies in the wonderfully hand-drawn coloring book given to children after C. Well Bunny’s visit.
We can provide healthy foods for healthy eyes (though C. Well Bunny certainly will prefer carrots). We can encourage children to tell us if their eyes itch or hurt, or if we notice rubbing of the eyes on a frequent basis. Do the eyes turn inward or line up equally when the child focuses? C. Well Bunny would want us to pay attention to these signs.
Vision-related learning problem may not be visible by looking at a child’s eyes, but can be apparent in how they interact and play. North Central Sight Services Inc. offers a double-sided information sheet with signs and symptoms on its website, www.ncsight.org. We can utilize the tools available and become more educated.
We can reinforce that throwing objects at someone’s face can lead to an eye injury, whether the object is a toy or a sharp instrument. If young children are participating in a sport, we can buy protective eyewear to go along with their shin guards and helmets.
We can protect children’s eyes (and our own) from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. North Central Sight Services Inc. recommends wrap-around sunglasses with a minimum protection of UV 400 (nanometers) to block 100 percent of UVA and UVB light. We also can keep the sunglasses out year-round to reduce the exposure during the winter months. Despite rainy and wintry days, UVA and UVB lights still penetrate. So before you place the superhero-themed sunglasses in your shopping cart, check the label for the amount of UV protection they provide.
Most importantly, we can promote their eye health by scheduling routine eye exams. It is recommended that children receive a thorough eye exam between 3 and 5 years of age, before kindergarten and then every two years. If your pediatrician or optometrist suspects a vision-related learning problem, the visits can be more frequent. Our region is fortunate to have many eye care professionals, in addition to our esteemed C. Well Bunny.
Thanks to C. Well Bunny’s basic tips, we can promote healthy eyes for healthy vision.
Larson is the marketing and public relations manager at North Central Sight Services Inc.