Age Appropriate

When are kids really ready for contact lenses? 3 optometrists share their (very different) opinions


ten. That’s the age eyecare professionals told the American Optometric Association kids are mature enough to manage contacts. That survey was, however, conducted several years ago.

To find out how age ranges and fitting habits have changed, we asked three prominent optometrists to share their strategies for kids + contacts.

Jeffrey Walline, O.D.

Associate Dean for Research
Ohio State University College of Optometry

THE RIGHT AGE: “It varies dramatically, starting at a few months of age, based on medical need. Typically, however, children are capable of contact lens wear and care at 7 to 8, especially with daily disposables. The most common reason children are fit with elective contacts is for myopia, and that typically onsets around age 8.”

CONSIDERATIONS: “There are three important ‘M’ factors: maturity, motivation, and mother. A mature child is important for long-term care of the lenses; motivation makes the fitting easier; and the mother is very important. She should be caring, but not overbearing.”

BIG TIP: “At least letting parents know there are options other than glasses provides appropriate informed consent about the options available.”

Kimberly K. Friedman, O.D.

Moorestown Eye Associates, Moorestown, NJ

THE RIGHT AGE: “On average, we start around age 11 or 12. I’ve fit several children below age 5, but there is generally a medical reason like amblyopia.”

CONSIDERATIONS: “Even young children can wear contact lenses, but we need to consider maturity, family support, and social/academic/recreation needs.”

BIG TIP: “Be proactive! Bring it up with patients even before they are ready. That plants the idea.”

Stephen Rozenberg, O.D.

10/10 Optics, New York City

THE RIGHT AGE: “At age 5 or 6, when the magnitude of the prescription is high. We’ll try at age 4, but that’s usually because we want to do some Ortho-k.”

CONSIDERATIONS: “Unless they have a very forceful parent, [young children] need motivation. Once they start, they’re comfortable. Plus, they’re eager to either not let their vision get worse or to not wear glasses.”

BIG TIP: “If the child isn’t comfortable with the experience, we’ll sometimes put some anesthetic in and then put a lens on. The kid opens his eyes and can see. I might even put a soft lens in that first time, even though it’s an Ortho-k patient, just to show the child how he’s going to see.”

—Stephanie K. De Long

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