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How to Choose Sunglasses for Kids 2023

Kids' eyes need protection from UV rays. But is a wide-brimmed hat good enough? How do you choose the right sunglasses? And how do you get your kids to keep them on? An optician and mom of two explains.

How to Choose Sunglasses for Kids 2023

Photo: iStockphoto

Thanks to widespread awareness about the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) rays, most parents are vigilant about protecting kids’ skin with sunscreen, hats and clothing. But what’s often left out of the mix is a good pair of sunglasses—and that can spell future vision problems.

We asked Yasmeen Syed, a licensed optician, instructor at Seneca College’s opticianry program and mom of two in Mississauga, Ont., for tips on choosing the best sunglasses for kids.

Do kids need to wear sunglasses?

Children are more susceptible to damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can penetrate deep into the eye and increase the onset of problems like macular degeneration, cataracts and surface eye diseases.

It’s really important we protect their vision, especially because kids spend lots of time outside and their eyes haven’t fully developed yet. They need sunglasses that protect against 100% of UVA and UVB rays, even on cloudy or overcast days—the rays penetrate through the clouds year-round.

The best sunglasses for kids 2023

Best overall

Rivbos Polarized Rubber Sunglasses

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An affordable price point (under $15), dozens of available colors and clever adjustable straps for the neck make these kids' sunglasses a shoo-in for the top spot on our list. We love the rubberized, flexible frames that promise to stand up to rough-and-tumble playground days and adventures at the beach.

These also offer full spectrum UVA and UVB protection, and make a brilliant addition to your list of things to pack for that all-inclusive family resort vacation you've got coming up. Do yourself a favor and order a few pairs of these handsome polarized sunglasses for kids—they're budget-friendly and back-ups are always a good idea.

Best wrap-style

Under Armour Junior Wrap Sunglasses

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Full spectrum UVA and UVB protection make these a solid choice, but docs agree it's the wrap-style design that takes the cake. It adds an extra layer of protection against tricky, angled harmful rays.

We love the face-framing style, multiple color options and design that's ideal for sports and activities. The wider format promises to protect your child from UV light. Simply put: these are our favorite sports sunglasses for kids and a great choice for vacation and other times, too.

Best luxury

Ray-Ban Junior Round Sunglasses

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Ray-Bans are the premium sunglasses for kids the docs we spoke to use on their own children. These are stylish, offered in nearly endless color and frame options and protect real, reliable and robust full-spectrum sun protection.

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These are also offered with polarized lenses that offer 100 UV protection (meaning they offer 100 UVA protection as well as 100 UVB protection). We're also pretty obsessed with how easy they are to do a matchy-matchy thing with parents, too. But that's just icing on the cake, right?

Best for babies

Babiators Navigators

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Yes, babies need sunglasses if they're going to be out and about. Sun protective clothing and hats are a good start, but babies ages 0 up to 2 years old benefit from these soft-framed, hard-to-break Babiators that look absolutely adorable on.

And because sunscreens are off-limits for the tiniest babies (under six months 0ld), these are a great item to pack in your umbrella stroller for long days on the go. We love the stylish eye protection and the thought put into the design of clever frames, affordable frames.

FAQs

When should kids start wearing sunglasses?

"I’d say two-and-a-half to three years old. When they’re younger than that, it’s physically difficult to do, but it gets easier as they get older."

Is a wide-brimmed hat an acceptable alternative to sunglasses?

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"A wide-brimmed hat is a good idea, but it won’t replace kids' sunglasses," she adds. "The sun will reflect off the sidewalk, sand, water or snow from below, so it’s still getting into their eyes."

Don’t we need sunshine to generate vitamin D?

"A little bit of sunlight is good for all of us, but if children are playing outside for extended periods of time, that’s intense, and their eyes need to be protected. Just like we protect our skin with sunscreen, we need to protect our eyes with glasses."

How to choose sunglasses for kids?

"The material of the lenses should be polycarbonate, which is ideal for children: it’s impact-resistant and lighter than standard lenses, and polycarbonate itself is UV protective. A large frame always provides the best protection, with temples that are a little wider to prevent peripheral sun from getting in."

Not only does it block the most UV, but it keeps out sand and debris. The frame should be close-fitting and flexible—look for spring hinges that extend beyond 90 degrees, so they’re less likely to break. Kids tend to be rough with their glasses.

Are prescription kids' sunglasses a good idea?

"If your child wears prescription glasses, you can get them a second pair with tinted polycarbonate lenses, or you can get photochromic lenses that change from light to dark to avoid having two pairs to keep track of."

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"These won’t replace a good pair of sunglasses, but it’s better than not wearing anything," Yasmeen explains. "They do provide full UV protection, but sunglasses tend to be bigger and give you a little more wrap."

How much should parents expect to spend on good-quality children’s sunglasses?

You’re probably looking at about $40 to $100, and prescription lenses will cost more. Most often, you want to avoid is low-quality sunglasses, like those stands of sunglasses at big-box stores. A lot of times, there’s a sticker that says “Blocks UV rays.” Be wary of stuff like that—avoid glasses that don’t specify the percentage of UV blocked.

"Also, with cheap sunglasses, the lenses aren’t optometry grade—they might be too thin, or distorted, and your child might not want to wear them because their vision is affected. If you go to the dollar store, you might find glasses imported from who knows where, and they might contain lead in the frame or hinges."

How can parents encourage kids to wear their sunglasses?

"It’s important for family members to lead by example. If parents are wearing sunglasses and putting a hat on when they go out in the summer, children are more likely to mimic that behavior. And let the child have input into choosing the glasses, so they’re committed – they like the style, they helped choose it and they’re excited about it."

She adds, "I make it a rule at my house. When we go outside, everybody has their glasses on. Getting my five-year-old son into that routine was difficult, but he really likes Bruno Mars, who’s always wearing sunglasses and a hat, so I got him the sunglasses, and I had to get him the hat too—it was the look he was after! Now he wears these cute little Ray-Bans and he’s just used to them."

Tips for preventing kids from losing their sunglasses

  • Encourage them to put their sunglasses back in the case when they take them off
  • Have a spot—in their desk at school, on the console table when they get home, or in their room. If there’s a spot for everything, things are less likely to get lost.
  • Put a label with your child’s name inside the temple or on the case.

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This article was originally published on May 10, 2019

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