Top 10 Signs Your Child Needs Glasses

If your child is struggling in school, an undetected vision problem may be to blame. A child who is unable to see the blackboard clearly or has a hard time focusing on the work at his desk will soon become frustrated.

Most schools require students to take part in a vision screening under the supervision of a school nurse or counselor. These vision screenings often reveal hidden vision problems.

However, many children’s vision problems go undetected during school vision screenings, so parents and teachers should watch for the following signs that may signal various vision problems.

If you notice any of these warning signs in your child, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment for a full eye exam. The doctor may determine that your child is nearsighted or farsighted—vision problems that are easily corrected.



Young boy reading

Kelly Knox / Stocksy United

Do you ever notice your child wrinkling his face and eyes up, struggling to see something near or far away? Children often squint their eyes in an attempt to see more clearly or as a reaction to strong, bright light.

Squinting momentarily helps improve vision by slightly changing the shape of the eye. If the shape of the eye is round, it is easier for light to reach the fovea. Squinting helps improve vision because quitting the eyes is much like looking through a small opening such as a pinhole. Peeking through a tiny opening reduces the size of the blurred image on the back of the retina. Squinting also reduces the amount of light that enters into the eye, making it easier to focus on an object.

Children squint because it temporarily improves their vision. If you catch your child squinting, it could be a sign of your child compensating for poor vision and should be investigated.


Tilting the Head

Your child may tilt his head to compensate for eye misalignments. Tilting the head can be a sign of an eye muscle imbalance or strabismus (lazy eye). Sometimes children tilt their heads because they suffer from ptosis, a condition in which the upper eyelid droops into the line of vision.

Tilting the head downward enables the child to see past the eyelid that is in their way. Your child may tilt his head to make an object appear directly in front of his body, making it easier for him to see. In addition, a child may have double vision when looking down or in a certain direction. Tilting the head helps to minimize the double vision to a more manageable level.


Sitting Too Close to Television

Do you ever catch your child sitting abnormally close to the television? Have you ever caught your child with her tablet resting against her nose? Sitting very close to the television or lowering the head while reading or watching a tablet are often signs of nearsightedness.

Nearsighted children generally have clear vision at a close range and poor vision at a distance. Moving the eyes closer to an object brings the object to their clear focal point and makes the image larger. If you notice your child moving closer to objects, an eye examination is definitely recommended as prolonged, uncorrected vision problems can become worse with time.


Losing Place While Reading

It's a great idea to have your child periodically read aloud to you. Listening to your child read can reveal potential vision problems. Does your child have a hard time keeping his place while reading? Skipping lines or losing your place while reading can be a sign of astigmatism. Sometimes an eye muscle problem such as strabismus is to blame.


Covering One Eye to Read or Watch Television

A child who covers one eye to read is simply shutting the eye with the poorer vision off so that it does not interfere with their vision. An uncorrected vision problem in one eye can increase a child's risk of developing amblyopia. Covering one eye can also be a sign of double vision caused by strabismus or a more serious medical problem, such as a cataract.


Excessive Tearing

Children often have lagophthalmos, a condition which causes the eyes to dry out at night because the eyelids do not completely close while sleeping. This can cause excessive tearing during the day that interferes with good vision.


Rubbing Eyes

Many young children rub their eyes when they are nearing bedtime. Allergies can also cause a child to frequently rub his eyes. However, rubbing the eyes is also a sign of eye fatigue and can be a sign of all types of vision problems. Medical conditions such as allergic conjunctivitis can cause itchy eyes, but can also cause vision problems.


Finger Pointing While Reading

If you have your child read aloud to you, watch to see if she uses her finger to keep her place. Finger-pointing while reading is not always a bad sign. It is often seen in a child learning to read independently. However, it can be a sign of an uncorrected vision problem, such as amblyopia. Amblyopic eyes exhibit a "crowding" phenomenon. When letters or words appear very close to other letters or words, it makes them difficult to recognize.


Light Sensitivity

Children with exotropia, a type of strabismus, occasionally squint one eye when exposed to bright sunlight. This may be interpreted as light sensitivity. Light sensitivity, or photophobia, is simply an intolerance of light. Many different types of light can cause discomfort including sunlight, fluorescent light, and incandescent light. Your light-sensitive child may complain of frequent headaches.


Frequent Headaches

Uncorrected farsighted children often have frontal headaches or brow aches. This is a result of the child attempting to compensate by exerting extra effort to clear their blurry vision.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Optometric Association. School-aged vision: 6 to 18 years of age.

  2. Rhim J, Eom Y, Park S, Kang S-Y, Song J, Kim H. Eyelid squinting improves near vision in against-the-rule and distance vision in with-the-rule astigmatism in pseudophakic eyes: an eye model experimental studyBMC Ophthalmol. 2020 Jan;20(1):4. doi:10.1186/s12886-019-1297-5

  3. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Abnormal head position.

  4. Mayo Clinic. Nearsightedness.

  5. World Health Organization—Brien Holden Vision Institute Global Scientific Meeting on Myopia. The impact of myopia and high myopia.

  6. Harvey E, Miller J, Twelker J, Davis A. Reading fluency in school-aged children with bilateral astigmatismOptom Vis Sci. 2016 Feb;93(2):118-125. doi:10.1097/OPX.0000000000000779

  7. West S, Williams C. Amblyopia in children (aged 7 years or less)BMJ Clin Evid. 2016 Jan;2016(1):0709.

  8. Rai B, Moka S, Sharif F. Nocturnal lagophthalmos: never seen before in hypernatraemic dehydrationBMJ Case Rep. 2014 Apr;2014(1):1-3. doi:10.1136/bcr-2013-203427

  9. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Allergic conjunctivitis.

  10. Lev M, Yehezkel O, Polat U. Uncovering foveal crowding?Sci Rep. 2014 Feb;4(1):4067. doi:10.1038/srep04067

  11. American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. Exotropia.

  12. American Optometric Association. Hyperopia (farsightedness).

By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.