Help for Your Children’s Vision
by Elizabeth Abraham
In her book Do You Really Need Eyeglasses?, Marilyn Rosanes-Berrett says, “One of the most wonderful things about childhood is that change is still relatively easy, even when the child’s vision problems seem fairly severe.” She goes on to say, “In all my work with children, I have found that releasing them from the pressure they feel to achieve—teaching them to relax, comforting them, and accepting them as they are—leads to a happier child who is able to achieve more with much less struggle and pain. This growth is beautiful to see.”
As infants, we begin to focus our eyes about six weeks after birth, but do not develop the ability to focus clearly until we are 18 months old. Our visual system is not fully mature until we are around 7 years old, so expecting children to achieve complex skills such as reading too early, may well lead to strained eyes and lowered acuity.
When a disturbance appears in our children’s vision, it is a good idea to look at what is going on in their lives, and also take a look at their diet and sleeping patterns. Many children eat more carbohydrates and sugar than fresh fruits and vegetables, and do not get enough sleep.
Blurry vision and tired eyes are usually a sign of strain. Sometimes restoring balance to the eyes and mind means doing fewer visually demanding tasks, building more “down-time” into our lives, getting more physical exercise, spending more time with close friends and family, and having more fun. Many of us sit for hours during the day using our eyes, and then sit again in the evenings studying or being entertained. Most of us need more time to assimilate all the new experiences of the day. Being outside in nature, puttering around the house, telling stories with family and friends, or engaging in a hobby or sport just for the fun of it, are valuable activities for the health of eyes, mind and spirit.
Games to Encourage Healthy Vision Habits
Healthy eyes are relaxed, love movement, focus on one thing at a time, and move rapidly from detail to detail. Here are a few games that will encourage your children’s good vision habits.
- Non-competitive ball games are a great way to allow our eyes to move freely. If your children wear glasses, see if they can play without them.
- With a very young child, you can sit opposite each other on the floor with your legs wide apart and roll balls of different sizes and colours back and forth to each other you.
- Older children often like to throw balls to each other and play catch against a wall.
- Tennis, hockey, soccer, or any other game done in a relaxed way can be great for the eyes.
- Learning to juggle is lots of fun and, at the same time, it gets the eyes moving.
Drawing, Writing, and Colouring
- Encourage your children to watch the tip of the pencil, crayon, or pen while writing, drawing, and colouring. This stimulates the eyes to move and helps the ability to track moving objects. You might like to try it yourself!
- I Spy—“I Spy” is a great game for the visual system. One person says: “I spy with my little eye something yellow” or, if the child is older, you can use the first letter of the word instead of its colour. The other person then gets to search the environment until the correct object is guessed. Choose objects both close up and far away.
- Farsighted children also benefit from looking for objects in books like “I Spy” or “Where’s Waldo”—without the help of glasses as long as they can do it with relaxed eyes!
- Make bedtime a special story time. You and your child can lie or sit comfortably with your hands gently cupped around your closed eyes. This is called Palming. Take turns telling a story while you both imagine the story in your mind’s eye as it unfolds. Activating the visual memory and imagination is a tremendous aid in clearing vision.
- You can also play Pass the Story with your closed eyes covered. One person starts a story then stops in the middle of a sentence, or right at an interesting part, and the other person continues with whatever comes to mind. This can result in lots of fun for all!
Here are a few more ideas to explore:
- If you or your children have difficulty reading signs in the distance or seeing the writing on the board, you might be suffering from the stress of sitting still every day while concentrating on close work. Make sure to look into the distance often as an antidote to close work yourself, and remind your children to do the same until taking a break becomes a habit. Keep your eyes moving and actively engaged rather than staring. If your eyes are tired, close and rest them.
- If you or your children often experience eye strain and headaches, perhaps your eyes are not working as well together as they might be. If this is the case, you can practice an activity called the Finger Gate. Do it when watching television, as a break from reading, when you are a passenger in a car or at a stop light if you are the driver. Hold your finger up and line it up with an object in the distance. Look at the distant object and you will notice two fingers instead of one, with the distant object in between the two fingers. Then look at your finger and notice one finger centred between two of the distant object. It will work best if you relax, breathe, and blink while playing this game. Alternate between looking at your finger and then at the far object several times and then close your eyes to rest them. Repeat this often during the day.
- It is important to establish a habit of Palming to rest your eyes when they are tired during the day, as well as before bed.
Adopting healthier vision habits as well as good nutrition and sleep patterns helps restore balance to the eyes and mind at any age. If you can enlist the aid of a Vision Educator to teach you and your children healthy vision habits instead of allowing the poor habits to get entrenched, that is the best route to follow. If you don’t have access to a teacher, there are several books that can help you. I recommend you start with: Help Your Child to Perfect Eyesight Without Glasses by Janet Goodrich.
Elizabeth Abraham, founder of the Vision Education Centre in Toronto and co-founder of the Vision Educator Training Institute (www.visioneducators.com) has been teaching individuals and groups since 1991. She uses a holistic approach which includes movement and emotional healing as well as the Bates Method of Better Eyesight. She can be reached at 416-599-9202 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. She will be teaching workshops and private vision lessons in Edmonton in February, April, and October of 2012 for the Canadian Centre for Self-Healing, www.csshealing.com. Contact Summer Bozohora at 780-757-2774 or email@example.com for details and to register. Also, see the colour display ad on on page 23 of the 17.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.