When should kids start wearing contacts?

son sitting on dad's shoulders

There’s a fair chance your kid could be squinting. Here’s why.

Nearsightedness among children is on the rise, doubling to more than 40% from 20% since the 1970s, according to recent research by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.1 That means a good number of parents may be thinking about which vision options are best for their kids.

Contact lenses are 1 of the treatments to slow myopia progression

An estimated 4 million American children younger than 18 wear contact lenses.2 And contact lenses are becoming more common for younger children, according to Dr. John Lahr, medical director for EyeMed Vision Care.3 In some cases, the benefits could be eye opening, with new technology intended to help slow myopia progression in addition to offering sharper sight.

“Several special contact lens applications have been shown to slow the progression of myopia along with reducing the length of the eye,”4 Dr. Lahr said. Further, a new 2-year study shows that treatments that combined contact lenses and atropine eye drops were 28% to 38% more effective in slowing childhood myopia, or nearsightedness, than contacts alone.5

Is your child ready for contact lenses?

But contact lenses, regardless of the kind, will provide only as much care as they are given. And while children can tolerate wearing soft contact lenses at a young age, contacts are a responsibility you should be sure your child can manage.

Asking if your child is the right age to wear contact lenses may be the wrong question, then. Maturity, activities and other factors are more likely to determine contact suitability.

Try the goldfish responsibility test

It may feel at times that kids have the attention spans of goldfish, which can cause them to back-burner some responsibilities. And contact lenses require a lot of responsibility, from daily cleaning to following scheduled removal and replacement.

Evidence of how well a child will follow contact use guidelines can be found around the home. Are their dirty clothes in the hamper or on the floor? Does the child follow through with homework, chores and hygiene with minimum prodding?

Here’s a good test: Have they had the responsibility to take care of a pet? If not, a goldfish might reveal how responsible a child can be.

Look under their fingernails (and bed)

Contact lens hygiene involves more than daily cleaning and disinfecting with solutions that kill infection-causing micro-organisms. The case that holds the contact lenses also requires regular cleaning and replacement. Also, the solution should always be emptied and replaced. Topping off solution weakens the mix.6

If your kid cleans behind the ears and under the bed, there’s a good chance their contacts would be clean as well. Learn more about contact lens do’s and don’ts.

Check into contact sports and sporting contacts

Children who play sports may find that contact lenses offer a number of benefits over eyeglasses — even those with break-resistant polycarbonate lenses. This is because the frames can still break, potentially causing an injury. Further, some lenses in safety glasses and sport glasses can fog up during competition.7

Sport contact lenses address these issues while providing more stable, unobstructed views and better peripheral vision.8

Will contact lenses help your kids feel as well as they see?

With millions of kids needing vision correction, kids’ eyeglasses are hardly uncommon. Add the fact that children’s frames now come in a growing variety of styles from top designers, and eyeglasses can help serve as a form of self-expression.

Still, some children might want freedom from glasses, especially as facial features continue to change during maturity and sense of self evolves.

Look into the return on investment

Contact lenses for children average about $300 a year,9 which can be less than the cost of a pair of eyeglasses, and they may be covered by a vision benefit.

For EyeMed members, there are additional perks at in-network providers who accept benefits online, like ContactsDirect. Members can get an extra 10% discount with free shipping and returns when they use promo code EYEMED2020.10

Whether contacts make better financial sense for your kids, long-term, depends on how well they can adhere to use and care guidelines. An eye doctor can help explain these guidelines.

If your kid is squinting, don’t wait.

This article is an advertisement.


1. “The number of nearsighted kids is soaring — and the reason why it may not be what you think”; by Shari Rudavsky; Dec. 2, 2019, Indianapolis Star; https://www.indystar.com/; accessed February2020.
“New approach to slowing nearsightedness in children “; Science Daily; Oct. 15, 2019; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191015092236.htm; accessed February 2020.

2. “Are contact lenses a good choice for kids?”; by Gary Heiting; All About Vision, April 2017; https://www.allaboutvision.com/parents/contacts.htm; accessed February2020.

3. “What age should children start wearing contacts?”; ContactsDirect.com; Aug. 31, 2014; https://www.contactsdirect.com/what-age-should-children-start-wearing-contacts; accessed February 2020.

4. Ibid; accessed February 2020.

5. “New approach to slowing nearsightedness in children “; Science Daily; Oct. 15, 2019; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191015092236.htm; accessed February2020.

6. “How to Take Care of Contact Lenses”; by Kiersten Boyd; American Academy of Ophthalmology; May 23, 2019; https://www.aao.org/eye-health/glasses-contacts/contact-lens-care; accessed February 2020.

7. “Are contact lenses a good choice for kids?”; by Gary Heiting; All About Vision, April 2017; https://www.allaboutvision.com/parents/contacts.htm; accessed February 2020.

8. Ibid; accessed February 2020

9. “What age should children start wearing contacts?”; Contacts Direct; Aug. 31, 2014; https://www.contactsdirect.com/what-age-should-children-start-wearing-contacts; accessedFebruary 2020.

10. Offer valid for EyeMed members. Cannot be combined with other offers. Valid prescription required. Void where prohibited. Some exclusions may apply. Offer subject to change. Log into eyemed.com and click Special Offers for full offer details.