Round up of sunglasses options for children with glasses

When your child is wears glasses, the question of sunglasses can be complicated.  We can’t just stop by the local store and pick up a pair of inexpensive kid’s glasses.  Last week I asked for people’s experiences with the different options for sunglasses for kids with glasses, so here’s my round-up of the three options, as I see them (if anyone knows of any other options, please, please let me know): Clip-on sunglasses, Prescription sunglasses, Transition lenses

Why your child needs sunglasses

First, though, I want to touch on the need for sunglasses.  When Zoe first got her glasses, the glasses shop asked if we wanted to add transition lenses to her glasses so they would act as sunglasses in the sunlight.  It was December in Minnesota, the middle of winter, in Minnesota in December, it’s pretty easy to believe you’ll never see summer again, so we put off the question of sunglasses.  That summer (this was last summer in 2008) with all of Zoe’s eye appointments and prescription changes and eye surgery, we never quite got around to getting sunglasses – not transition lenses, not clip-ons, not prescription sunglasses.  I felt a little like we were already doing so much, I just couldn’t manage to think about one more thing to do with her vision.

I would NOT recommend anyone following our example from last summer.  Sunglasses are extremely important to help protect eyes and they’re even more important for young eyes.  Young eyes are more susceptible to UV radiation, and most people get the majority of their exposure to sunlight before they’re 16 (from the Eye Care Blog).  Exposure to UV radiation is linked to lens and retinal damage, and your eye does not repair that damage, so the damage from sun exposure accumulates over time.  Make sure that any sunglasses you purchase block both UVA and UVB rays (from Dr. Greene.com).

Clip-on sunglasses

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Elly's glasses with a pair of clip-on sunglasses

Clip-on sunglasses fit over existing glasses, there are a number of different options for how they fit, but they often have “feet” that hold the tinted lenses on the glasses.  How well they stay on depends on how well the fit to the glasses.

Price: Some clip-ons can run as cheap as $10, and can get more expensive from there.

Availability: Readers have found clip-ons at optical shops.  You can also find some sold online.  You’ll want to try them on your child’s glasses, and may need to have someone adjust them to fit better.  If your child has particularly thick frames, or thick lenses, it may be difficult to find clip-ons that fit.

Advantages: An inexpensive option.  You don’t need to worry about these not being comfortable in terms of the frames, since they fit on your child’s existing frames.  If your child’s prescription changes, you probably won’t need to replace the clip-ons, unless the new prescription results in lenses that are too thick.

Drawbacks: Clip-ons may be difficult to find for very small children and babies, or for certain frame styles or lens sizes.  Clip-ons are one more thing to keep track of, and it may be a bit of a pain to put them on and take them off when you’re going in and out.  Clip-ons may not be as durable as other options as they can get easily bent (depending on their quality).  If your child gets new frames that are quite a bit different, you may need to get new clip-ons.

Prescription sunglasses

Aubrie's prescription sunglasses from Zenni.com

Aubrie's prescription sunglasses from Zenni.com

Prescription sunglasses are simply an additional pair of prescription glasses with the lenses tinted.  Like regular glasses, the price of prescription sunglasses will differ depending on the options you choose for the glasses.

Price: If you order from our optical shop, it will likely be a similar price as, or a bit more than, your child’s every day glasses.  Many readers have purchased prescription sunglasses from online retailers such as Zenni.com for $20-$30.

Availability: Any pair of glasses can be made in to sunglasses with tinting.  You can order prescription sunglasses from your favorite optical retailer.

Advantages: Prescription sunglasses allow your child to get the more “fun” sunglasses look for outside.  Most people will not realize your child is in prescription glasses when they’re wearing prescription sunglasses.  You can get the sunglasses to provide better protection for your child’s eyes by getting larger lenses.  If your child breaks their primary glasses, you can, in a pinch, use the prescription sunglasses as back up.

Disadvantages: Prescription sunglasses are one more pair of glasses to keep track of, and clean, and maintain, and adjust.  Switching from glasses to sunglasses to regular glasses again can be a bit of a pain.  If your child’s prescription changes significantly, you’ll probably want to get a new pair of prescription sunglasses (though if the change is minor enough, you might be alright with the older prescription).

Transition lenses

Emma in her glasses with transition lenses on a sunny day.

Emma in her glasses with transition lenses on a sunny day.

Transition lenses are a type of tinting that is applied directly to the lenses that will darken in sunlight, turning regular glasses in to sunglasses.

Price: The price of the transition tinting runs around $85 – $100.  If you need to replace the lenses for any reason (scratches, prescription changes) you may need to pay the additional transitions tinting when you replace them.

Availability: Any pair of glasses can have the tinting applied.

Advantages: Nothing additional to keep track of – no switching of glasses or putting on/taking off of clip-ons.  The glasses will darken and lighten according to the amount of sunlight.

Disadvantages: Some people have complained about the glasses not darkening sufficiently in cars because the car windows already block out UV rays.  The costs can add up if you’re replacing lenses often.

~ ~ ~

Thanks to everyone for all the feed back that made writing this much easier.  Please share any other experiences in the comments!  And enjoy the sunshine.

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12 responses to “Round up of sunglasses options for children with glasses

  1. This is great info. I’m waiting for C’s prescription to stabilize after she has her surgery before getting sunglasses. I’ll definitely come back to this post for ideas!

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  2. Thanks for the info. We actually just got transition lenses for my 6 year old in May. He loves them. He was born with bil cataracts and had them removed at 3 and 4 weeks. He wears RGP contact lenses with bifocals on top. He is very light sensitive and to my suprise the transition lenses have been wonderful. If I would of known how well they have helped him I would of got them years ago. No more fighting with him to wear sunglasses and the clips always are to difficult for him to do himself.

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  3. It’s important to keep your kid’s eyes protected in the sun, especially if their eyes are particularly sensitive. We just wrote about a great company called BabyBanz that offers cool sunglasses and goggles for young ones, with a stretchy band to keep them on their head, http://bit.ly/17kktI You can check out more information on their site: http://babybanz.com/

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  4. I’m really excited to see people recognizing just how important it is to protect their child’s eyes from UV rays. As an optometrist I see many eye conditions and issues that have worsened by increased exposure to sun. Given that children receive three times as much exposure to the sun each year and that the lens of a child’s eye lets in six times the UV radiation as an adult‘s eye, it is never too early to start protecting the eyes. I recommend that my patients chose Transitions® lenses, because they block 100 percent of UVA/UVB rays and also reduce painful glare, allowing the wearer to see their best in any light condition. Taking the proper precaution with your child’s sight today, helps ensure they will see their best in the future.

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  5. Great write-up. My 8 year old has been wearing prescription glasses ever since he could walk, so we’ve tried different options and assessed the pros and cons.

    He used to have prescription regular glasses and prescription sunglasses and he toggled back and forth. We often found ourselves “out and about” without the sunglasses. And when he was at school we had no control over whether he was making the switch or not. It was also expensive because my insurance only paid for one pair of prescription glasses per year (so we paid for the sunglasses ourselves). We just moved to transition lenses recently and couldn’t be happier – he always has his sunglasses when he needs them, and we have the insurance coverage. I think they do get dark enough, but sometimes there is a lag in the time it takes for them to go from dark to regular again. But that tradeoff is well worth it.

    Thanks for the great write-up!

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    • Thanks Dina! I do think the not having to keep track of an extra pair of glasses – especially at school – is a big push in favor of the transitions.

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  6. I just got a FrameHuggers glasses strap and I now have to convince Elly to take off her perscription glasses when we are in the house. The strap really made a difference and will make it easier for us to patch and wear sunglasses outside! Althought the clip-ons work great for us, the pink sunglasses are SO cute!

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  7. My daughter has transitions lenses. They work well, they get VERY dark in bright sun (and in not-so-bright sun, too). I would reiterate the disadvantage that they don’t darken in the car. The other disadvantage to me is that I can’t take a picture of her outside without her ‘sunglasses’ on and they’re pretty prominent (so the first thing you notice about her are her big black sunglass lenses). It doesn’t seem like a big deal (it’s certainly not a health or comfort issue), but it does it make it hard to get a good picture of my 2 year old, which is too bad. And in pictures taken inside, the lenses are frequently a little gray looking.

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  8. My daughter gets headaches when she reads, so she has reading glasses for school. But during the summer, she likes to read while we’re at the pool, so I had to buy her bifocal reading sunglasses. They are a great source and she loves them, and she is able to still sport “stylish” glasses with her girlfriends at pool parties 🙂

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  9. Pingback: Happy 2013! « little four eyes·

  10. Another option I just learned about is fitover sunglasses. We haven’t tried them yet but are considering them for a trip to a tropical location. You put them right on top of your normal glasses, but the ear piece is shaped differently to be comfortable on top of normal glasses. I don’t know how well they fit or stay on. The place I saw them was fitovers.com.

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