Please see the following page for information about signs that may suggest your child has a problem with their vision and what you should do if you are concerned by clicking here for information on eye tests. 

All babies will have an eye screening at birth and again at about six - eight weeks of age by a GP or health visitor.

Although serious vision problems during childhood are rare, routine eye checks are offered to newborn babies and young children to identify any problems early on. Free NHS sight tests are also available at opticians for children under 16 and for young people under 19 in full-time education.

Around 1 year, or between 2 and 2-and-a-half years
You may be asked if you have any concerns about your child's eyesight as part of your child's health and development reviews. Eye tests can be arranged if necessary.

Around 4 or 5 years old
Your child's eyes may be examined soon after they start school. This is called vision screening and it checks for reduced vision in one or both eyes. The aim is to detect any problems early so that treatment can be given if needed. Vision screening is usually carried out in your child's school. However, this does not happen in all areas. If your child's vision is not checked at school, take them to your local opticians for an eye examination.

Go to an  optician if you have any concerns about your child's vision at any stage (see spotting signs of a vision problem).

Certain behaviours can be a sign that there is a problem such as:

  • sitting too close to the TV or insisting on watching TV in the dark
  • rubbing their eyes a lot
  • holding objects very close to their face
  • blinking a lot
  • showing signs of a squint – the eyes don’t look into the same direction. One eye may turn inwards, outwards, upwards or downwards, while the other eye looks forward
  • Problems navigating in the dark e.g. entering a tunnel or the cinema

Even if none of the symptoms above is displayed, there could still be an underlying eye condition. If you are worried about your child's sight or there is a history of squint or lazy eye in the family, do not wait for the vision screening at school. Take your child to an ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist, who will see children of any age.

Don't worry about the costs, as all NHS sight tests are free for children under the age of 16 and for young people under 19 in full-time education.
For more information, read: entitlement and costs.

Children do not have to be able to read to have their eyes examined. It's possible to see whether the child has a squint or needs glasses without asking them any questions, using age-appropriate tests and equipment.

If the eye test detects any problems, your child will be referred to an orthoptist, who is part of the eyecare team and generally works alongside ophthalmologists and optometrists. Orthoptists work in local health clinics or hospital eye clinics.

For more information, read: Eye tests for children

Speak with your Health Visitor or GP early if you may have any concerns about your baby's vision or eyes. They can help refer your baby to have a formal eye test.

You might be invited to an appointment at an orthoptic department (eye clinic).

Further support and guidance for those who are partially sighted or blind is available via the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB) (UK's leading charity for people with vision loss).


Page last updated on: 20th February 2023