How to choose and fit children’s glasses

‘Children’s faces have different proportions to adult faces, but the specs all too often are simply scaled-down versions of adult designs’

Did you know that if children’s glasses slip down their face this can make their specs far less effective? A child with specs that slip may not get the full benefit of their prescription. This can mean that their eyesight doesn’t develop as well as it should.

So that’s the problem, but why is it happening? There are a number of issues at play. Firstly, choosing the right frame is critical. A child’s face is not just smaller than an adult’s but the bridge of their nose is less well developed too, something that can be clearly seen in babies.

Secondly, children are much more active than adults. Their specs face the challenge of running, jumping, playing, even going upside down on a climbing frame.

And thirdly, all spectacles loosen with time. Part of this happens as we take our specs off and on. The repeated action changes the shape of the frame. While it’s great to show children how to take their specs on and off carefully with both hands, it’s not reasonable to expect them to do that daily. Add to that the effect of warmth from the face, acids released by the skin, and a growing child, and a spectacle frame that fitted well to start can soon become loose.

How to choose your children’s glasses

Given all these issues, what should a parent do to ensure that their child gets full benefit from their specs, with the lenses staying on the centre of their eyes? There are a number of solutions, and research underway to create better fitting glasses too.

When you are choosing a frame for your children’s glasses, ask to speak to the dispensing optician (DO) before you start. A DO trains for three years and is qualified in ophthalmic dispensing. The dispensing of children’s glasses should always be conducted by a registered optician (DO or optometrist) or under their supervision. The DO will fit the optimum frames and lenses for each child they see. Ask the DO to select three or four frames which are a good fit and then give your child a choice from this range. This avoids the issue where your child loves a fashionable frame that doesn’t come in their size or can’t be adjusted to fit.

Think about the size of frame for your child. The width of the frame should match the width of your child’s face. Once they reach the ear the sides should curve downwards. If the sides curve too early, they can push the frame down on your child’s nose which can cause slipping. Smaller frames tend to be lighter and less likely to slip. Discuss whether plastic or metal frames are the best option for your child. A headband can help the specs stay on some frames for babies and toddlers come with a headband included.

The importance of picking the right pair 

Many children leave the optician with well-fitting specs, but a week or two later the specs may start to slip. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. Just call back into the optician for the specs to be adjusted. Some people need very few adjustments, but with active and growing children you may find periods where you need to visit every week to stop the specs slipping. The DO is trained to ensure that your specs fit well and will be happy to help however often you need to return.

And if you have struggled to find a frame that is a great fit for your child, you’ll be pleased to know that Alicia Thompson, director of examinations for the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, is carrying out research into the fit of children’s glasses. Her innovative research project captures 3D scans of children’s faces so that accurate post-capture measurements can be taken.

Children’s faces have different proportions to adult faces, but the specs all too often are simply scaled-down versions of adult designs. Manufacturers are already using this new research to create frames that can be made specifically to fit children, so it will soon be easier to find a great fitting frame for your child.