Not just an adorable accessory but an important one too, the best kids’ sunglasses play a vital role in protecting their eyes from the dangers of UV exposure.
And with a recent study showing that buying cheap sunglasses can increase the risk of blindness and eye cancer, you can never be too careful. “Children need to protect their eyes just as much, if not more than us adults,” says Dan McGhee, Director of Clinical Optometry at Vision Express. “Not only do children spend more time outdoors, but a child’s eye is more vulnerable to UV light and since their eyes are still developing, they have clearer lenses which can allow more UV light to reach inside the eye and penetrate the retina.”
“By the time we reach the age of 18, we will have absorbed 50% of all the ultraviolet light we will ever absorb in our lifetime. Since damage from UV is cumulative, exposure gained as a child can build up and lead to further problems in the future.”
We asked the experts how to choose kids sunglasses based on age, fit and safety standards, as well as why getting it right is so important for protecting your child’s eyesight.
How to choose the best kids sunglasses
Safety standards – “Before you buy a pair of cheap sunglasses make sure they provide adequate protection – not all do,” says Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers. “Sunglasses don’t need to be expensive but they should always conform to agreed safety standards. Look out for a CE (European Community Standard), BSEN1836 (British Standard) or UV400 markings and aim for a pair that offer 80 per cent light reduction.”
Fit – Not all shapes of sunglasses will provide a spot-on fit, so it pays to try a few different pairs. “The nose bridge should fit well to stop them from slipping with the heat,” explains Kajol, Dispensing Optician at Fashion Eyewear. “And the frame should give enough coverage to protect eyes from the sunlight. Sunglasses with headbands to keep them close fitted are a good choice for active children.”
“Look for durable features such as flexible hinges too,” adds Giles. “Hinges that extend beyond 90 degrees and have a spring action to keep the fit of the frame snug will decrease the risk of your child’s sunglasses falling off or getting damaged during sports and other play.”
Lenses – If your little one normally wears glasses day-to-day, then they’re likely to need sunglasses with prescription lenses. Unfortunately this does make them pricier, but choosing a sturdier frame will hopefully help them stand the test of time. These can be purchased in store with an optician. If you’re unsure about whether coloured lenses are safe, Kajol suggests you steer clear. “You should not choose fashion coloured lenses e.g. pink, yellow or blue as these do not protect the eyes as well. Tint colours should preferably be brown or grey.”
Best kids’ sunglasses to shop now
1. JoJo Maman Bébé Kids’ Flexible Sunglasses
Does your little one keep trying to take their sunglasses on and off? The handy detachable (and adjustable!) strap will not only help to keep this pair in place, but is comfortable to wear too. The lenses offer maximum UV protection to keep delicate eyes safe. “Unbreakable it seems and my baby loves to wear them to look up at the sky,” raved one online reviewer.
2. Babiators Original Keyhole Sunglasses
Made from flexible rubber, these frames can be bent or twisted without breaking. The lenses are shatter resistant, and offer 100% UV protection. For extra peace of mind, Babiators will send you a free replacement if your child’s sunglasses are lost or broken within a year of purchase. All you need to do is register within 30 days of buying them, and cover the postage.
3. Unofficial Kids Children’s Sunglasses
A great choice for older children, this stylish pair feature round metal frames and a choice of green or pink hued lenses. As you’d expect from opticians Vision Express, these glasses provide 100% UV protection and are polarised, to reduce glare and therefore the need to squint.
4. Disney Ariel RX Sunglasses
The perfect sunnies for Little Mermaids, this Disney themed pair are sure to become their new favourite accessory. Look out for seashell detailing on the corners and pictures of Ariel on the inside. Great for children that wear glasses, there’s the option to add prescription lenses.
5. Ray-Ban Junior RJ9506S
Let your tot make like the grown-ups with their very own pair of junior aviators. One of the best-known and most-trusted sunglasses brands around, Ray-Ban knows a thing or two about what makes a safe and stylish pair of sunglasses. This pair comes with 100% UV protection lenses as standard, and a 2 year warranty.
6. JoJo Maman Bébé Baby & Kids Sunglasses
Curved, wrap-around lenses like these are a great choice, protecting your child’s eyes from all angles. At a bargain price, it’s no surprise they’ve been one of JoJo Maman Bébé’s bestselling styles for years. Reviewers have commented that they come up small, so size up if your tot is in between sizes.
7. Polarn O. Pyret Baby UV Wraparound Sunglasses
Suitable for ages 6 months to 2 years, these simple but effective sunnies will take good care of delicate eyes. Polarised lenses reduce the amount of glare, while high levels of UV protection ensure top-notch safety.
8. Oakley Frogskins XS Youth Fit Sunglasses
Best known for their performance-focused eyewear, Oakley is a brand you can trust. These sunnies feature Impact Protection Lenses, which have been tested in extreme circumstances to ensure they protect eyes in all conditions. The frames are lightweight and comfortable too, making them a worthwhile investment for mini adventurers.
9. Babiators Blue Series Hearts Sunglasses
If your tot needs some convincing that wearing sunglasses is a good idea, a novelty pair might well be all the persuasion they need. Just like the original Babiators, the frames are virtually indestructible, and the frames shatter resistant. The UV400 lenses have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they offer 100% UVA + UVB protection.
10. Guess Kids Cat-Eye Model Sunglasses
Who says kids’ sunglasses can’t be as cool as the grown-ups? Mini fashionistas will love the baby pink hue and catseye shape of these retro-inspired shades. Fun factor aside, brown lenses provide excellent protection from UVA and UVB rays. The narrow shape and firm fit makes them a good choice for smaller faces.
11. Oakley Junior Radar EV XS Path Sunglasses
Sunglasses for the seriously sporty, these feature all the high-spec details as the adult version, but carefully scaled down to suit smaller faces. Great for cycling, hiking and even ski trips, the clever lenses work hard to enhance visibility. The node pad provides extra comfort, and the wrap-shape keeps eyes covered from all angles.
At what age should children start wearing sunglasses?
“Children under 6 months old should not be exposed to the sun and should be kept under cover where possible,” advises Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers. “But if they are in the sun, they should wear a hat and glasses.”
Thought kids’ sunglasses were just for holidays and the height of summer? Think again.
“Once they reach 6 months, and are more exposed to the sun, we would advise the use of sunglasses,” continues Giles. “It is essential that children are wearing their sunglasses during all the time spent outside, and that includes play time at school. Even on cloudy days, our eyes can be exposed to UV radiation, so sunglasses should be as important as packing their lunch or homework.”