First-born children benefit from better visual skills

Firstborn children benefit from better visual skills

Firstborn and only children are often responsible, reliable, high achievers. A new study suggests they also may have better visual skills in certain categories.

"It's important to take time for one-on-one activities, like reading and playing games..."

Researchers from the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) found that such children have better eye movement skills when compared to children who fall later in birth order.

"Firstborn and only children are definitely an area of interest," says Christine Allison, O.D., who co-authored the study with Darrell Schlange, O.D., both professors at ICO. "This specific research came out of a real-world observation that firstborn and only children often do better in school, especially during the earlier years."

"As far as we know, there has been no other eye-related research on firstborn and only children. So the findings were surprising, simply because there have been no prior studies, and it was a hypothesis based on observation," Dr. Allison adds.

The study suggests that firstborn children are often encouraged to perform certain activities—like coloring, drawing, putting together puzzles, solving mazes and working in activity books—before entering kindergarten, which may lead to better eye movement skills at a young age.

For evidence, Dr. Allison points to a 2008 study by economics professor Joseph Price, Ph.D., which found that firstborn children spend about 3,000 more hours of quality time with their parents or caregivers during childhood than children farther down in birth order.

This quality time, which likely leads to better visual function before entering kindergarten, may result in early school success and earlier reading.

The importance of early eye movement skills
Dr. Allison, a mother of three, understands that for many parents and caregivers, working on skills is a matter of time.

"You have more one-on-one time between parents and children when there's only one child in the house," she says. "When more children come along, there's less time for reading and activities."

Dr. Allison believes one-on-one time can make a difference when it comes to development of eye movement skills.

"It's important to take time for one-on-one activities, like reading and playing games, jigsaw puzzles and board games. It's also good to get away from computer-based activities and engage in activities with more real-world applications," Dr. Allison says.

December 23, 2014

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