Eye tests for children – What eye testing can be done for infants and pre-schoolers?

It is crucial for parents to understand the importance of eye testing for their children. Recognising if your child has vision difficulties at a young age is imperative, as children are usually more responsive to treatment at an earlier age (meaning any vision difficulties they may have can be fixed sooner rather than later).


The vision of an infant changes rapidly over the first 6 months. When we check an infant’s eyesight, we want to make sure their eyes appear healthy, that there is no leukocoria (white pupil), no obvious strabismus (turned eye) or high refractive error that could lead to a lazy eye (amblyopia).

What tests can be used to examine an infant’s eyes?

For an infant’s first eye examination, an approximate measure of their vision can be taken using special cards called preferential looking cards. These have one side that is blank and one side with stripes. The infant will look at the side that interests them the most for a longer period of time.

We can also conduct an external examination, which tests if their pupil reactions are normal and there is no gross abnormality of their eyes.

A good indication of healthy vision is if the infant is able to watch you move something interesting or eye-catching around the room. This can be a colourful toy, shiny object or brightly coloured balloon.

What tests can be used to exam a pre-schoolers eyes?

There are several tests we can undertake to examine your child’s eyes. For example, using an auto-refractor (a computer controlled machined used to measure how light is changed as it enters the eye) is a great way to measure your child’s vision without them having to read an eye chart. Because the test is quick and easy, it gives us great results about their vision without them having to explain it to us themselves.

For children who cannot yet read the letters of the alphabet, a Lea symbol chart is used to assess the visual capabilities of near vision and distance vision. This test consists of four test symbols: the outlines of an apple, a pentagon, a square, and a circle. Because these four symbols can be easily identified as everyday objects (“apple”, “house”, “window”, and “ring”), they can be recognized at an earlier age than abstract letters or numbers can be.

There are also lots of other ‘fun’ tests we can conduct, such as measuring colour vision and 3D vision (stereopsis), along with cover testing to measure binocular vision function, pupil assessment, ocular motility and fixation as well as accommodation.

As your child gets older, more of the tests that form a “normal” eye examination can be performed. We try to keep it fun, but we also ensure we perform all the tests required to measure your child’s eyes in detail.

On that note, did you know one of our optometrists Jean-Pierre is an expert in children’s vision and learning difficulties? His strong research background means that the solutions he offers are proven to help your child see better.

Contact us today to book an appointment with Jean-Pierre.

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