This week is national eye health week. What a perfect time for your to help your little one explore their sense of sight (and let you screen for any early warning signs that your darling might need a bit of vision correction).
Explore the science of vision with your preschooler through a grand adventure.
Start with a craft
Start by making a pair of ‘binoculars’ with a pair of decorated empty toilet paper tubes, glued together with a little hot glue. You can add some yarn around the set to give it more decoration and add a strap so your little one can wear them dangling around their neck.
Take an adventure
Next, go outside for a little adventure exploring. Have your child use the ‘binoculars’ to look for things that might be visually interesting on closer examination. Things like flowers, pine cones, shells, or rocks are good candidates.
While you’re exploring, talk about how the binoculars keep you from seeing other things around the edges. Do you see things in front of you more clearly? Are the colors brighter?
Examine the booty
Bringing your treasures inside, give your child a large magnifying glass and challenge them to look at their items from various distances. How did they change? Were they able to see things they hadn’t noticed before? Does the flower have pollen on it? Is there still sand on the shells? Can they spot a fossil in their rock?
Now have them arrange their items in a specific order, explaining they’re making a puzzle for themselves. You’ll be messing it up in a minute, so you don’t want them to be too attached to the arrangement as a permanent structure.
It doesn’t matter what the order is, just as long as it requires some use of their fine motor skills to accomplish and it’s a design you both can remember. Take a picture of it if either one of you wants to commemorate its beauty.
Explore like a pirate
Once you’ve decided on a pattern, separate the pieces again and place an eye patch over one of your preschooler’s eyes. With one eye ‘closed’, have them work to re-create the pattern they’d just made.
How is the experience different with just one eye?
Is it different depending on which eye is ‘closed’?
Is it harder for them to get the pieces in the right places?
Why do they think it’s harder?
Quick check for the parent
Not only does this day of vision exploration help your child understand more about the role vision plays in their lives, it also gives you a chance to spend some valuable quality time with your preschooler. You also get a chance to check for any early warning signs of potential vision problems.
Some potential indicators could be:
- Consistently reaching in front of or behind an object
- Holding objects very close or very far in order to focus on them
- Sudden A-ha moments when using the microscope or the ‘binoculars’ when they are able to see something they’ve never noticed before but should have (obvious striations in rocks for example)
- Being able to see with one eye but not the other
- Not looking directly at an object
- Feeling for objects rather than looking for them (when using two eyes)
If these behaviors are pronounced, you may wish to speak with your child’s doctor during their next checkup or take them in for a pediatric eye exam for early intervention.