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My mother is an optometric technician, meaning I grew up hearing stories of eyeball injuries every night at the dinner table. Kids being shot with Nerf darts and firecrackers, adults mistaking nail glue for eyedrops and gluing their eyelids shut. (It happens more often than you’d imagine.) Needless to say, I’m an advocate of protective eyewear for both myself and my children, and that includes sunglasses.
Pediatric optometrist Breanne Niebuhr explains the importance of wearing sunglasses from an early age: “Sun exposure is cumulative, and the results of UV damage don’t present themselves until later in life. Cataracts, pinguecula, pterygium, macular degeneration, and even some eye cancers can occur as a result of cumulative UV exposure. Children spend more time outside than adults and have much larger pupils, which makes them both more sensitive to sunlight and allows more UV light to enter their retinas.”
When selecting sunglasses for your little ones, it’s important to look for 100% UV blockage and durable frames. “Comfort is most important,” Niebuhr explains. “Plastic, polycarbonate lenses are the most shatter resistant and help protect little eyes.
Levon has been sporting shades since day one and now refuses to play outside without them. Parents often ask how I kept him from pulling them off when he was a baby, and I honestly believe it’s because he started wearing them so early. Neibuhr agrees, “Kids who start younger are more used to something being on their face, so they’re less likely to take them off. And starting early on in life can build good habits for the future.”
Below is our round-up of the best sunglasses for kids. Most brands are available at a variety of retailers.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of "Raise Magazine," stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to "Raise," she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and five-year-old son, Levon.