Strong eye health is essential for many aspects of life—including success in school. Your child might have 20/20 vision, but do they have the eye skills they need to reach and exceed their potential as a student?

Perfect eyesight isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to eye health—particularly for budding students. Research shows that children need specific eye skills in order to read and learn as effectively as possible.

So much of school consists of reading, writing, and staring at chalkboards and screens. As such, students’ vision is constantly in use throughout the school day, often pivoting from one task to another. For some kids, it can be difficult to keep up.

Even playtime and extra curricular activities employ numerous vision skills. Plus, as children get older, more is demanded of their vision, as textbook fonts become smaller, and time allotted to reading increases in later grades.

While students settle into their classrooms this fall, it’s important to keep vision health in mind. That’s why we’re sharing six key vision skills your child should have in order to excel this school year.

1. Visual acuity

In the world of education, focus is key—and we don’t just mean mentally. To truly focus on a task, students need the ability to focus visually, often on objects that are far away. Visual acuity is the ability to discriminate objects at a particular distance, such as a chalkboard, computer or book. Peak visual acuity means small objects and letters can still be seen clearly from a ways away. For obvious reasons, visual acuity in school is highly important.

2. Eye focusing

Eye focusing is another important visual skill, and believe it or not, it’s a bit different from visual acuity. Rather than measuring someone’s ability to focus on a specific object, eye focusing is the ability to maintain clear vision as you change from far to near or vice-versa. In a school setting, this might be a ball, or a teacher moving around a classroom.

3. Eye tracking

Eye tracking is the ability to keep the eyes focused on a moving target and accurately follow an object, such as a ball. Like eye focusing, this visual skill is also essential for following an object clearly as it moves from one place to another.

4. Eye teaming

Simply put, eye teaming is the ability to use your eyes as a pair—or a “team.” Eye teaming is about coordination, and using both eyes simultaneously to accomplish various tasks, such as reading or playing sports. Using the eyes in conjunction with one another assists with judging distances and recognizing depth.

5. Eye-hand coordination

While we often think about hand-eye coordination, eye-hand coordination is equally important. It indicates a person’s ability to use visual cues to direct movements. Eye-hand coordination is relevant for various in-school activities, including art and athletics.

5. Visual perception

Perhaps the most important visual skill, particularly for young learners, is visual perception, which is the ability to internalize one’s surroundings and mentally organize colours, letters, patterns, and structures. Visual perception also encompasses comprehension, retention, and recognition.

How to strengthen these skills

There are several fun activities you can do with your child to help strengthen their vision.

First and foremost, the more reading you do with your child, the better. The best way to ensure your child is able to track writing on a page is to read aloud with them on a regular basis. Visual tracking can also be honed through doing puzzles, mazes, and writing exercises, as well as playing sports.

If your child struggles with focusing on an object for an extended period, practice that skill by holding an item (such as a pen) in front of them, while slowly moving it closer to their eyes. Then, slowly bring the item back. This will assist them with focus and tracking.

Another useful activity is to draw something on a large sheet of paper, then place it on a wall. Have your child sit at a table and try to draw the same image on their own sheet of paper. This will help with visual perception, and it will also enhance their eye focusing capabilities.

What to do if one or some of the six vision skills is deficient?

Although there are things you can do at home to help strengthen vision, it’s always best to lean on experts to ensure your child is getting the best care.

If one or some of the aforementioned visual skills is not properly developed, a child may start to struggle in school. Learning-related vision problems may induce eyestrain, fatigue, headaches, eye irritation, frustration, and an inability to pay attention. As such, it’s important for parents and educators to be on the lookout for any signs of sight problems.

Common signs of vision concerns include abnormal blinking, consistent headaches, head-tilting, eye-covering, discomfort, inability to keep up with reading, and difficulty reading and/or identifying far-away objects.

Back-to-school is a great time to book an eye exam, as undetected and untreated eye conditions can become increasingly concerning, and a child can quickly fall behind in school. Particularly amid peak developmental years, vision can change quickly. Plus, children are less likely than adults to detect their own eye issues and seek support from a parent or doctor.

That’s one of the many reasons it’s important to keep up with your child’s yearly comprehensive eye exams, so your doctor can catch—and prevent—any potential problems early on.

Book a comprehensive eye exam for your child today at an FYidoctors clinic near you.