Outdoor play is good for kids eyes
Outdoor play is good for kids eyes – The benefits of outdoor play for children are well known; it encourages physical activity, helps develop learning by absorbing new information and skills, promotes creativity and imaginative play, and even in winter, being outside in the sun means they are getting enough vitamin D. One of the lesser known benefits of being outdoors is that it promotes healthy eyes and vision.
According to Zelda van Coller at Zelda van Coller Optometrists Dynamic Vision in Alberton, being outdoors may help to reduce the risk of developing eye conditions such as nearsightedness or myopia. Nearsightedness has become more common in recent years. Many experts believe the increase in prevalence is linked with extended use of computers and screens, as well as other near-vision tasks.
“Children are spending more of their free time indoors watching TV and playing video games, and their long-distance vision is suffering because of it. When children are outdoors playing, it means they are not staring at a TV or a screen. But beyond this, being outdoors means they are training their eyes on objects, people and scenery, which is excellent exercise for eyes and improves long distance vision. Exposure to daylight is also known to reduce the risk and slow down the progression of nearsightedness,” she says.
Even small doses of sunlight daily can promote healthy vision. Based on an analysis of researchers at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, eight separate studies found that each additional hour spent outdoors in a week can help to reduce the risk of myopia by 2%.1
In addition to encouraging children to play outdoors more, Van Coller also recommends a few eye-exercise games which can help to develop children’s long distance vision.
“When you are outside, ask your child to look to the horizon, and trace it with their eyes and index finger. Simple, ‘eye-spy’ games can also help to develop long distance vision if you choose objects in the distance for your child to spot. It requires them to scan both near and far to identify the object you have selected for them to find. You can also ask your child to look at something faraway and focus on it while you count to 10 then look at something close while you count to 10.”
She points out that many parents may not even realize that their children are nearsighted. A child with nearsightedness might show these signs:
• Persistently squinting
• Needs to sit closer to the television, movie screen or at the front of the classroom
• Blinks excessively
• Rubs his or her eyes frequently
• Complains of blurry eyes
• Unable to see things in the distance that are pointed out to them
As many eye and vision problems do not have obvious signs or symptoms, and because children may not be able to articulate that they are battling with their vision, van Coller says periodic eye and vision examinations are important. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems can help prevent vision loss. Eye exams by a qualified optometrist should be conducted in children at six months of age, again at three years old, and before they start primary school. From primary school onwards, eye exams should be conducted every two years.