Hints - Useful Devices for Wet Days n article on "The Care of Children's Eyes" A has already appeared in Every Woman's Encyclopaedia (page 1946, Vol. 3), dealing with the causes of short sight and the need of obtaining proper glasses to correct any error of refraction.
But there are many cases of what might be called "delicate sight" amongst children. A boy may have quite good sight in the sense of being neither long sighted nor short sighted. He may be free from astigmatism, and possess an eye which is anatomically sound in the sense that no oculist could discover any error of refraction. Indeed, up to the age of nine short sight does not develop at all, but "weak sight" in early childhood is far from uncommon in the nursery.
Now, the point that a mother ought to realise is this - that the child's eyesight, however perfect, requires care if it is not to be spoilt in the early years. Many a man has to go through life wearing glasses, constantly handicapped with eye troubles, suffering from headaches the victim to careless upbringing and neglect of his eyes in childhood.
The correct position for reading, the back supported and the feet on a stool. A small child should be given a low table on which to put his toys, with a chair to correspond in height
Our modern methods of education impose a great strain on the eyes of young children, and the wise mother does everything she can to counteract this by little devices in the nursery. Care is especially necessary in the case of a studious child who reads with avidity everything he can pick up, and will actually develop short sight from straining the eyes bending over books in the wrong way.
The first rule a mother should make is to insist upon a proper position for reading and writing in the nursery and schoolroom. The small boy in the picture who is doubled up, reading in a chair with his legs crossed, without support to the back or feet, is taking up a position which directly encourages weak sight in later life. There is a wrong way for a child to sit and a right way, and both are shown in the photographs. In the latter case, strain, not only of the eyesight but of the back and shoulder muscles, is prevented by giving the boy a chair the back of which supports the spine, and raising the feet on a stool so that he is comfortable, and can read in comfort and without strain to the eyes.
A good light, a book with the print clear and of fair size, are points which must not be forgotten. So that, if you wish to keep the children from developing weak sight in the nursery, see that they read in a good light, that they sit comfortably, with the head well up so as to prevent congestion of the eyeballs.
When there is the slightest suspicion of weak sight, curtail very strictly the hours of reading and writing.
How can a mother know when her child's sight ought to be taken special care of?
Headache is not a frequent symptom perhaps at this age, but it occasionally occurs, and is a sign in most cases of eyestrain. If a child shows fear of strong light, and the eyes are tender, especially in a bright light, suspect eyestrain. Nervousness, night terrors, habit spasms are very often produced by eye weakness, and redness of the rims or the eyeballs suggests that special care is needed.
It often happens that the child with delicate sight is rather difficult to manage in the matter of reading. He refuses to save his eyes by keeping away from books altogether. In his case, definite times should be laid down, and strictly adhered to. The eyes should not be used in artificial light, and everything possible must be done to get the child occupied in games and interests that keep him from poring over books. The modern idea that the child ought to be allowed to follow his own bent is open to criticism. Eyesight might be ruined when it is left to the studious child to read for as many hours as he wishes in the nursery. But there are various devices which can be utilised to provide him with congenial interests, without unduly straining the eyes.
In the first place, writing lessons and drawing lessons can be arranged by means of an easel and board so that he stands erect for part at least of his lesson. Thus he writes without unduly bending the head forwards. Whatever causes a child to keep the head low increases any tendency to short sight. So that an easel should be supplied in the nursery with a blackboard, where sums, map-drawing, even writing lessons may be practised quite well. The child enjoys the change, and this device also prevents development of spinal weakness and round shoulders.
How a child's eyesight may be spoiled. A position such as this encourages congestion and strain of the eyeball. The chest is also badly compressed
Writing and drawing lessons can be given on a blackboard, resting on an easel. This arrangement is far better than allowing a child to stoop over a desk
Another idea that appeals to all children is to nail with drawing-pins brown paper to the wall, and let the children draw, write, and scribble to their hearts' content with chalks. The best plan is to have the walls washed with light green distemper instead of paper, which is much more hygienic, and more suitable for the nursery. If desired, clean brown paper can be bought in rolls and fastened as a dado round the room. The children are easily pleased when they have not been spoiled with luxuries. The sheets of brown paper can be pinned on and removed when finished with. While these are required for reading or drawing lessons for the older children, the little ones must be prevented from scribbling haphazard after their fashion. Trouble can be avoided if a sheet is provided for each child, and competitions can be arranged and small prizes given for the best map, the best writing, the best alphabet in capital letters, and the largest number of sums done correctly.
These ideas are excellent for keeping children usefully and happily employed in occupations which prevent them from long sitting, and yet allow some exercises for the legs and arms. Some training of the left arm may be given from time to time.
And now for some practical details with regard to the domestic treatment of weak sight.
Do not permit anything in the shape of overwork or strain, and attend to the points mentioned above.
Bathe the eyes in the morning, if there is any redness of the lids, with a cupful of warm water to which a teaspoonful of boracic powder has been added. Then bathe them in pure cold water, which is a tonic to the eyes. Dry carefully with a soft towel.
Rub in a little boracic ointment along the lids at bedtime.
See that a good artificial light is supplied in the nursery, and avoid any flickering of the lamp or gas.
In most cases, in addition to nourishing food, some domestic tonic such as cod-liver oil will be required. The tissues require nourishment, and the eye weakness will improve whenever the vitality of the child is raised.
Keep the child as happy as possible. Any eye weakness tends to depression, as many people find out whenever they have some error of refraction corrected, thus doing away with the constant strain of tired muscles.
If the child's sight does not improve definitely within a reasonable time, he should be taken to a specialist, who may order some special massage or other treatment which can only be done under his direction.
Last, but not least, see that the child with weak sight gets an extra allowance of sleep. Such a child can hardly have too much sleep, and the number of hours he has is very much a matter of habit. During any strain of examination work this is particularly necessary, and reading should be avoided in the evenings. When this cannot be done, a good light, with a shade so as to throw the light on the book, a comfortable chair, and table should be provided for the young student.
Attention to these details in childhood would make all the difference to the sight and health of people in after life.
Put brown paper on the nursery wall on which children may scribble or draw to their hearts' content