SUNGLASSES are an essential summer fashion accessory, but for children, they offer much more than just looking cool in the heat.
Kids’ sunglasses are a vital tool to protect young eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays and along with a good sunscreen and sun hat, a pair of children’s sunglasses should be top of your summer shopping list.
“Children are at a higher risk than adults of UV damage to their eyes because their pupils are larger, and the lens, which acts as a natural defence barrier against UV light, is clearer,” explains Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers.
“Consequently, their ‘filter’ is not as effective, and can let in up to 70% more light than adults.”
During summertime, children usually want to make the most of the sunshine and generally spend lots of time outdoors; whether that be in the school playground, running around the beach on holiday or having a kickabout in the local park. As a result, they also have more exposure to the sun’s rays.
However, sunglasses aren't just for sunny days either. “Even in cloudy weather, our children’s eyes can be exposed to UV radiation,” says Giles. Children’s sunglasses should block 99% to 100% of the sun's UV rays. When purchasing a pair of everyday sunglasses for your child, it’s important to look out for category three or above, or UV400 markings.”
Best children’s sunglasses at a glance:
- Most indestructible kids’ sunglasses: Original Keyhole Sunglasses, Babiators
- Best children’s sunglasses for sustainability: Round Sustainable Sunglasses, KIDLY
- Best children’s sunglasses for cute design: Toddler Hearts Sunglasses, Roshambo
- Best children’s sunglasses for outdoor sports: Quechua Kids Hiking Sunglasses, Decathlon
- Best budget children’s sunglasses: Kids Round Colour Block Sunglasses, John Lewis & Partners
- Most stylish children’s sunglasses: Baby & Toddler Sunglasses, Leosun
- Best sunglasses for very young children and babies: Izipizi Sun Kids Sunglasses, Mori
- Best sunglasses for children with prescription glasses: Clear sunglasses, Specsavers
- Best children’s sunglasses for label lovers: Aviator Kids, Ray Ban
- Original Keyhole Sunglasses, £24 – buy here
Age sizes available: 0-2y Junior, 3-5y Classic , 6y+ Kids
Genius name aside, there’s a reason Babiators are quickly becoming the go-to sunglasses brand for parents. Available in a range of age sizes and cool colourful styles, these kids' sunnies are made from a flexible rubber that is BPA-free so little ones are safe to wear, play, twist and even chew their glasses.
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They feature pin-sharp UV400 lenses that offer 100% UVA + UVB protection, and if (against all odds) your sunglasses are lost or broken in the first year of purchase, Babiators will replace them for free.
We tested the Original Keyhole Sunglasses and found they fitted really well on our three-year-old tester and she was quite happy to keep them for long stints during outdoor play. You can also buy fabric and silicone straps to keep your Babiators in place.
- Round Sustainable Sunglasses, £6 (usually £14) at KIDLY – buy here
Age sizes available: 0-2y, 3y+
These scandi-style round sunglasses come in four understated colours and were stylishly oversized on our little tester, but still managed to stay put.
We loved that they were made from 100% recycled materials and the scratch-resistant, polarised lenses offered category three UV400 Protection. They also come with a simple cotton bag to keep them safe and for the price, we thought they offered a lot of impressive credentials and an effortlessly cool style too.
- Baby & Toddler Sunglasses, £26 at Leosun – buy here
Age sizes available: 0-2y, 3y+,5y+
Available in one round classic shape, in a variety of stylish muted colours, including rose, toast and coco the Leosun sunglasses arrived beautifully presented, in a sliding cardboard box and a bash-proof felt pouch.
The sunglasses are constructed from the innovative eco-friendly G850 Renew which is made from 45% castor seeds (who knew?!) and are very lightweight with super flexi hinges – the 3+ pair fitted our four-year-old tester perfectly.
However, it was the category three, polarized UV400 lenses that really impressed us. They meet EU, American and Australian standards and filter out blue light too, plus they have a unique oleophobic coating which means they are resistant to sticky little fingerprints; the result? A gorgeous glare-free lens that little ones will actually wear.
Polarn O Pyret
- UV Polarized Kids Sunglasses, £20 at Polarn. O Pyret – buy here
Age sizes available: 2-6y+
These classic black Wayfarer-style sunglasses are just the thing for no-fuss kids. We really liked the simple unisex design and the fact that they could easily be passed down to younger siblings.
They boast UV400 category three protection and the dark grey, polarised lenses offer a glare-free view. We found they were a weeny bit big on our two-year-old tester, but fitted the four-year tester-old perfectly and he really enjoyed wearing them and keeping them safe in the lens-wipe material storage bag.
- Kids Round Colour Block Sunglasses, £5 at John Lewis & Partners – buy here
Age sizes available: one size
These fun sunglasses are available in two different colourways, sit nicely on the face and are a dream holiday accessory. The dark grey lens offers a good amount of filter and they boast 100% UV protection too.
Although they would possibly fit children as young as two or three, we’d advise only buying them for 4+ kids as they are made from acrylic and glass, so possibly not able to withstand very rough toddler behaviour (eg. repeatedly being chucked on the floor and stamped on), but at only £5 they are an absolute bargain.
- Aviator Kids, £68 at Ray Ban – buy here
Age sizes available: 4-6y, 7-10y
Got a mini (well, mini-er) Tom Cruise on your hands? This kid version of the iconic aviator pilot shades are made for little adventurers and small style icons.
Crafted for small faces they have adjustable nose pads and plastic temple tips for a comfy fit. We loved the large green-tinted lenses, which have 100% UVA/UVB protection, plus blue light filtering – and the fact that you could customise with prescription lenses too. They also come with an ultra-smart Ray Ban case and cleaning cloth so your child can learn to look after them and keep them safe.
- Quechua Kids Hiking Sunglasses, £8.99 at Decathlon – buy here
Age sizes available: 4-8y+
Made with long, sunny hillside hikes in mind, these kids’ sunglasses from sports specialist Decathlon are ideal for children that are always on the move. The lenses are category three and have a 100% UV filter.
They are made from a super lightweight polymer, and weigh in at less than 20g, so they can be easily stowed away or worn all day on adventures. Our five-year-old tester was thrilled with the colourful reflective frames and proudly put them away in the storage bag after every wear.
- Toddler Hearts Sunglasses, £22 at Roshambo – buy here
Age sizes available: Baby, toddler, junior, teen and adult (sizing guide on their website)
We feared that novelty-shaped kids' sunglasses could be a little bit style-over-substance, but thankfully this was definitely not the case with these incredible heart-shaped beauties.
They offer UV400 protection to block 100% of UVA/B rays and are polarised to help reduce glare and eye strain. They fit exceptionally well on little faces and they are so lightweight they actually float (which is, incidentally, pretty handy at the beach).
The frames are beautifully crafted from a super-flexible material which feels pretty much impossible to break, but if you did happen to somehow snap or scratch them, Roshambo offers a lens and damage replacement guarantee. Plus, they also do adult versions of their super-cute specs so you can be adorably matchy-matchy.
- Round gold glasses, RX 54 £64 at Specsavers – buy here
Age sizes available: one size
These stylish round glasses are the go-to style for mini fashionistas. Made with prescription lenses in mind, they are the ideal choice if your child needs some vision support, but still wants to look cool.
They are one size, but we’d say they could potentially fit children from around 4-8 years and the adjustable nose pads and tortoiseshell temple tips make them adjustable and comfortable. We loved that they feature a scratch-resistant treatment and flexi hinges, and stood up to a bit of rough treatment from small hands too.
- Izipizi Sun Kids Sunglasses, £30 at Mori – buy here
Age sizes available: 0-9m, 9m-3y, 3-5y
Suitable sunglasses for a baby can be a tricky find. They need to be extra comfortable, flexible and stay put through plenty of wriggling and exploring.
The Izipizi sunnies are a brilliant buy for very young children as they are specially designed with a soft, straight frame that grows with them and a supple, adjustable silicone strap to keep them in place. They are also BPA- free and hypoallergenic (so no worries if you catch your baby giving them a gnaw).
They offer category three protection and comply with all international sunglasses standards. After some initial complaints, our six-month-old tester kept these on for a surprising amount of time and they looked super cute too.
- Clear sunglasses, RX 60 £64 at Specsavers – buy here
Age sizes available: one size
Designed with prescription lenses in mind, these are a simple, stylish option for glasses-wearing kids in the summertime. These sunnies seemed to suit every face we tried them on (even some adults!).
We loved the matt crystal acetate frame and the attention to detail, such as the flat brow line and double pin wings, which make them just a little bit cooler. However, these glasses don’t have flexible hinges, so may be more suitable for slightly older children.
What should I look for when buying sunglasses for children?
The primary job of kids’ sunglasses is to protect your child’s eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. They need to block 99% to 100% of the sun's UV rays, so when purchasing sunglasses for your child, they need to be category three or above, or have UV400 markings.
This means they provide UV protection of up to the 400-nanometre wavelength. There is a higher protection category (you guessed it – category four) but these glasses are generally advised for skiing and snow sports.
However, it’s not just UV protection you need to look out for. “For the best protection from the sun, go for a relatively large yet close-fitting frame, as any gaps between the face and the lenses will let in UV around the sides,” suggests Giles Edmonds at Specsavers.
Flexible materials, scratch resistance and polarised lenses to reduce glare are also all useful attributes for children’s sunglasses – especially if they are known for being a little rough. “Durable features such as flexible hinges are also a good idea for kids that are always on the go.” confirms Giles.
What age should children start wearing sunglasses?
It’s never too early to start protecting little eyes, and children are advised to start wearing sunglasses from as young as six months, however getting them to keep them on may prove challenging.
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“Children in general tend to spend more time outdoors than most adults,” says Giles. “So it is advisable for them to wear sunglasses from a young age, to ensure they are protecting their eyes.”
Try to introduce kids sunglasses as soon as you can and look for flexible, BPA-free styles that can be bashed and chewed as well as straps to keep them in place and prevent them from clattering to the floor every two seconds.
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