Kid models in magazines always look so polished (as do models of any age, I suppose). They’re smiling, never having a tantrum, and if they are running pell-mell in some sporting or roughhousing activity, they certainly have no accessory malfunction. If they are wearing cool shades, they are NOT falling off. Their glasses are chosen for looks and for style, with doubtful much consideration for practical things like UV rating, durability, or EEEK cost.
Thankfully Real Kids Shades has a line of children’s eyewear that takes a mom’s wish list into consideration and is not short on either form OR function.
Our family put the line of Real Kids Shades through a battery of tests. Some we liked more than others, and a couple we plain loved. Here is the breakdown:
★★★★★ Flex Duo—The Flex Duo has 100% UVA/UVB sun protection as well as a wrap-around design that keeps peripheral sunlight to a minimum. Their extremely flexible frames in cool two-toned colors hold up to the abuse kids throw at them.
We took our Flex Duos on our summer staycation in and around Central Florida. Our Flex Duos went to Busch Gardens in Tampa and Dinosaur World in Plant City, near Lakeland. Whether climbing on play equipment or scampering up dinosaur bones, they stayed put, which is key in our bright Florida sun. A neoprene strap is included which we found to be a vital accessory. How many kids sunglasses are lost because they are dropped or left behind? Despite having an issue with the strap being too snug to fit over the ends (the first one), we still give this style 5 stars, as the company quickly sent out a replacement.
Daniel, age 5, said they were comfortable to wear, and “didn’t hurt at all.” He thought the colors were “cool,” and even when he wasn’t wearing the band they stayed put through lots of play. He gives the Flex Duo two thumbs up.
★★★★★ Xtreme Sports—With shatterproof, impact-resistant polycarbonate lenses, the Xtreme Sports model is ready for action! Our kiddo took them through their paces on his bike. The wraparound design with mesh back is perfect for wear with helmets. There are even anti-fog vents for sweaty kids (like mine) who don’t want to get all fogged up while pretending to be Evel Knievel (with, ahem, training wheels). “I don’t like it when my eyeballs are sweaty,” he said.
“The pad on top is good,” said Daniel, referring to the foam-backed polycarbonate lenses. Not only does it cushion little active faces, but it keeps out more light and prevents sweat from dripping down into his eyes from his forehead.
He also wore them out on the golf course running after balls and into more than our fair share of sand traps at beautiful Shingle Creek. Out on the 14th hole he had the best of both worlds. He was protected. And he looked CUTE!
Four and a Half Stars
★★★★ ½ Xtreme Elements—Off to the beach, splash park, or waterpark? Then your kids need Xtreme Elements. These glasses protect kids eyes from the sun and the elements (i.e. water and sand). Note, however, that they are not goggles and therefore are not designed to be submerged in chlorinated water. Yes, they’re perfect for splash pads, waves, and sprays, but they’re not to be worn as your little guppy tries to see how long he can hold his breath in the pool! The foam protects eyes from water and other elements from rolling down into their eyes, but it doesn’t seal out water and is not meant to be used under water as extensive subjection to chlorine could break down the foam gasket. That said, Daniel thought they were “way cool” (we have the blue flame style) and he loved that the neoprene headband made them float (just like him!). If the foam gasket were designed to withstand the summer pool and SeaWorld, Aquatica schedule a little longer, it would have received 5 stars. They are by far Daniel’s favorite to wear, despite the slight gasket issue.
★★★★ Flex—The bendable rubberized frames make the Flex glasses super comfortable to wear. The boy and girl versions have distinct lens styles. The boy frames are more sleek, while the girls have that big lens “movie stahhhh” vibe. Shatterproof polycarbonate lenses ensure safety along with that style. When worn with the included neoprene strap, they stay firmly in place. Our one caveat to these was that when not worn with the strap they were quite loose. Bendy is good, and my son wears these in the car, and on the beach. I do insist the strap is on, as I can see these coming off in hard play (and that’s the only kind we seem to have around here!).
Why Have Your Children Wear Sunglasses?
I started Daniel in sunglasses when he was a baby. My nephew had retinoblastoma and he lost one of his eyes. While glasses would not prevent this type of blindness, it made me start reading about how important it is to protect children’s eyes, if not for now, but for their future.
Eye damage from the sun is cumulative and can occur even on cloudy days. Kids who don’t wear protective eyewear are at greater risk for:
• Age-related macular degeneration
• Pterygia – abnormal tissue grown on the whites of the eyes
• Skin cancer around the eyes
• Photokeratitis – sunburn of the cornea
I interviewed a few lifeguards at Aquatica about kids and sunglasses. Adrian, from Jamaica, said he estimates only 6% of kids he sees each day wear sunglasses. “There are way more adults wearing sunglasses than kids,” he noted. In an unscientific tally I found a similar percentage of child usage, while about 40% of adults were protecting their eyes (although many were, no doubt, concentrating only on the style).
Parents I spoke with were either passionate about glasses (and their kids were wearing them) or didn’t really seem to be aware the sun could damage their kids’ eyes. Sam, a tourist with his family, said they forgot the kids’ glasses at home so they bought some on site. (Real Kids Shades cost around $14.99 and are available at their website.)
What to Look For
When selecting protective eyewear for your kids, be sure to look for a few key features:
- Third-party veriﬁcation of 100% UV-A/UV-B protection
- No phthalates, lead or bisphenol A
- Impact-resistant frames and lenses (acrylic lenses can shatter)
Set a good example for your kids and YOU wear sunglasses each and every day. While it doesn’t hurt to look stylish, focus on safety. Choose a brand that blocks block 100% of both types of ultraviolet rays, UV-A and UV-B. A UV 400 rating is best. Make it a habit to put them on your child, even if he (or she) doesn’t like it at first. It’s a habit to grow into. And if you get some of the great offerings sold at Real Kids Shades, they’ll not only be as safe as possible, they’ll look great on their closeup!