Outfitting a child with eyeglasses can leave a parent seeing red. You want the most practical, affordable pair, but your child is set on the trendiest, costliest, up-to-the-minute style.
Relax. There are plenty of glasses on the market these days that are durable, inexpensive and good-looking. And with a few smart buying strategies, you can see your way clear to a pair that will provide your youngster with sharp vision and years of happy wear.1. Frames. To choose the best frames, you've got to find a good optician. Ask your child's eye doctor, or friends who have bought glasses for their kids, if they know of a shop that specializes in children's eyewear. The secret is to find one with the widest possible range of frames. Not only does this give you and your child a better selection, it also indicates that the optician has made a significant investment in, and understands, kids' eyewear.
Once you've found the right optician, work with her or him to select frames in your price range that are durable enough for your child. If your daughter is active in sports, for instance, you may want to spend a little more on a stronger, higher-quality frame. Then let her pick her own style from among those frames you deem suitable. "If the child doesn't like the glasses, she won't wear them, and you might as well not have invested the money," says Charlie Scatamacchia, manager of Purdy Opticians for Kids in New York City.
2. Lenses. Because they are less likely to shatter than glass lenses, plastic lenses are the safest choice for kids. Most eye-care professionals recommend impact-resistant polycarbonate over the standard plastic, CR-39. Polycarbonate is lightweight, strong, scratch-resistant and blocks 99 percent of ultraviolet light as well. Polycarbonate lenses cost $20 to $30 more than those made of CR-39, but most eye-care pros say the extra expense is worth it. No matter what lenses you opt for, be sure to ask if they're scratch-resistant. If they're not, you can ask that a scratch-resistant coating be applied. (Most opticians offer the service at no charge.)
3. Nose pieces. Young noses grow, so frames with adjustable nose pieces are apt to fit better and last longer. Most metal frames have adjustable nose pieces; many plastic frames do not.
4. Temples. Take special care that the temples - the pieces that run from the lenses to the ears - fit comfortably. The shape of the ears and the bone structure behind them vary from child to child, and temples that rub the wrong way can be painful. As your child grows, check the temples periodically to make sure they haven't gotten too tight. Good opticians should make free follow-up adjustments to any frames they sell.
5. Hinges. Look for spring hinges instead of the standard, fixed hinges. The flexibility they provide stands up better to the rough handling kids so often dish out.
6. Getting kids to wear glasses. Keeping a smile on a newly bespectacled child's face isn't easy. How a parent handles the event makes a difference, so always appear positive and matter-of-fact about it. The adjustment will be smoother if you can encourage the attitude expressed by one 9-year-old surveyed by an eye-care trade magazine: "Glasses are fun because you can see better," he said.
7. Proper handling. To be sure that glasses don't get cracked or lost, teach a child to put them in the same place when she's not wearing them, to use both hands when putting the glasses on or taking them off, and to set them down folded, with the lenses facing up. With some kids' glasses costing an eye-popping $100 or more, such simple precautions are well worth it.