In the For Little Eyes facebook group, the question of whether glasses fit a child well comes up often, and Melony has become known as one of our experts, based in large part on her own experiences finding glasses that fit on a variety of ages of kids. Melony was gracious enough to write up a fantastic guide on finding glasses that fit your child well. – Ann Z
Download our new printable guide to finding glasses that fit your child, based on the information in this post, so you can print it and take it with you when you shop for glasses!
Finding glasses that fit your child
You may have just got some startling information about your child’s vision or you may have had one or more children in glasses for some time, but have never had a clear understanding about how to choose frames so have had to rely on the knowledge of optical staff. Either way, a good understanding of how glasses should fit is something every parent of a child in glasses should have. Sadly, it can be hard to find an optical shop with staff trained especially in regards to fitting children.
I was blessed to have an amazing first optician and much of what I know about glasses he taught me. I was so sad when he left our ophthalmologist’s office for the mission field. The rest of the information comes from lots of in the trenches experience because I am blessed with not only one or even two children in glasses, but FIVE. This means countless frame try-ons and lots of frame purchases. I hope to give you some good basic tips for Do’s and Don’t when shopping for frames.
Note: if you ordered frames today after a long stressful vision appointment and are not feeling comfortable with your purchase please call and place a hold on the order until you can do a bit of research and make an educated decision. I know you are incredibly anxious to get your sweet child the glasses they need but please don’t rush. Children are amazingly adaptable and yours has been managing all of this time. A few more weeks to make sure you get frames that will be perfect are worth the wait.
I use three criteria when shopping for frames FIT, FUNCTION, and FASHION in that order.
Fit is crucial. Glasses that fit well stay put, encouraging your child to look through the appropriate part of the lens. They are more comfortable, which encourages compliance, and frankly they look more attractive. Glasses need to fit your child today so we never want to size up for growth. Bigger is definitely not better when it comes to frames. They slip and slide out of place drawing attention from your child and begging to be ripped off and chucked on the floor. Bigger frames mean bigger lenses. Big lenses are heavy and cause the frames to slide down their nose. Frames that fit don’t move even while laying down or rough play.
When trying on samples, this is how I help our children choose great frames and it has served us well: First, find the measurement of a frame that fits well. Frames have three measurements, usually marked inside of the frame and typically appear in the format: XX-XX-XXX. These number are in millimeters and represent the lens width, bridge width, and temple(arm) length.
The lens width is the first measurement and describes the width of one lens in millimeters. The first step we use when trying to find if frames fit is to check lens widths. When you place a frame on your child, bend down to look directly into their face to get the best idea of fit. You are trying to center their eye both horizontally and vertically.
Looking at your child’s frame width the sides of the glasses should not be touching their face until they reach the ear or have a large gap between the frame and the side of the face. There should be no taper in or out on their path to the ear. From the hinge to the earpiece the temples should travel a straight parallel path along the side of their head. If the temples are angling into the ear go down in lens width, bowing out go up. Off the shelf frames are scaled so they are designed that if the lens width fits the other measurements should be appropriate too. This is not always the case but it gives you a starting point.
For reference, infants and small children may only grow one or two millimeters in lens width over a year and it can be less for older children. Once you find a frame that fits in lens width take a note of that measurement and find other frames that are the same size with a 1mm difference in either direction. It is important to understand that lens width translates differently in different frame mediums particularly for flexible frames like Miraflexand chunkier plastic frames.
The bridge is the portion of the frame that spans between the lenses over the nose. Frames are designed to be proportioned but faces vary and so the shape of the lens impacts the bridge width. More rectangular frames tend to have a narrower bridge to accommodate for the width of the lens. This means that children with wider nose bridges and infants may not be able to get a good fit with a rectangle. Nose pads should fit snugly but comfortably against the nose with no pinching or gaps. Frames with nose pads offer some adjustability, but solid plastic or flexible frames do not so they should fit the nose perfectly.
Last you want to look at the temples. The length of the temple is also important. If the temples extend too far past the ear it is a good indicator that the frames are too large. Your child should be able to sit and lie back without the earpiece bumping the surface and shifting the frames. Bent ear pieces should not extend past the bottom of the ear.
That brings us to function. There are a variety of frame types but the three basic types are wire, flexible, and plastic. Fit is a huge factor in function because glasses that fit well function well. But there are other considerations. If you have a tiny squishy baby (been there) or an active young child that needs glasses, you will likely want something flexible and as close to indestructible as you can get, like Miraflex or Solo Bambini. An older child active in sports may need a second pair of glasses that are sports goggles like RecSpecs. A child who requires an exact bifocal line may do much better wearing a wire frame with nose pads because it gives you the best adjustability.
Last on my list is fashion. Glasses that fit and function well for your child are the most important thing. That doesn’t mean they won’t be adorable. They will! And glasses that fit well will look much better on your child than a pair that does not fit. There are not nearly as many frame choices for children as there are for adults. Depending on your child’s size, your geographical location, and your budget the selection may be even more restricted. This can make finding great frames a challenge but not impossible. In fact there is an increasing number of online retailers that offer tryon kits for home. Having concerns about your child’s appearance is expected. Wearing glasses will change their appearance, in my humble opinion they will be even more adorable. Be sure not to get caught up in the fashion of the frames if it is to the detriment of fit and function. You will have many more opportunities to shop for frames and as your child gets older the selection will expand.
As a fellow parent of children in glasses and consumer I implore you to insist on good service from your optical shop. You are paying for a product and service. They have a professional responsibility to provide your child with functional frames that fit. If you have been misguided and encouraged to buy ill-fitted frames please insist on accountability from the shop and a replacement at their cost. Shopping for frames is challenging whether it is your first or 50th time but it does get easier.
Below you will find a collection of photos generously provided by members of the Little Four Eye Facebook group. These are all actual frames that were dispensed by various optical shops with comments as to how well they fit.
Melony Dever lives in Maryland with her husband and their five bespectacled children.