Apr 4, 2024, 12:05:23 PM CDT Apr 5, 2024, 2:10:10 PM CDT

How to safely view a solar eclipse with kids

Check out these tips to keep kids safe during a solar eclipse.

Kids wearing glasses while viewing the solar eclipse. Kids wearing glasses while viewing the solar eclipse.

Solar eclipses are incredible, rare celestial events – and seeing a total eclipse is all the more rare.

When you properly protect your eyes, a solar eclipse is a magical chance to witness the alignment of the sun and moon. As you're preparing for the next solar eclipse, here's how to make sure you do it safely, especially if you are watching with kids.

Tips on how to safely view the solar eclipse

1. Wear eclipse glasses that are ISO approved to protect your eyes

If you want to watch the eclipse outside, everyone needs to wear special eclipse glasses. Look for writing on them that says they meet the safety standard requirements for ISO 12312-2. Some glasses marketed as eclipse glasses do not actually meet safety standards.

Did you know?
Even very dark sunglasses cannot block dangerous UV rays from looking at the sun. Only special eclipse glasses provide full eye protection.

2. Make sure eclipse glasses fit properly

Glasses should fit snugly and completely cover kids' eyes to offer full protection.

3. Make sure glasses aren't damaged

Check glasses for any scratches or tears. It's okay to recycle or re-use eclipse glasses – but only if they have no signs of damage or scratches.

4. Test your glasses

Put on your glasses and look at a bright light. While you may be able to see the lightbulb filament, you should not be able to see any glow around the bulb and everything should look very dim.

5. Have a conversation with kids about the importance of keeping their glasses on

Make sure children understand the importance of keeping their eclipse glasses on. If they are too young to understand, consider an alternative method of viewing the solar eclipse with them.

6. Do not use unfiltered binoculars or a telescope

It is not safe to view the solar eclipse through unfiltered binoculars or a telescope.

What happens if you look at the solar eclipse without glasses?

Looking directly at the sun – at any time, even for a short time – can damage parts of your eye, including your retina and cornea. And that can cause temporary or even permanent vision problems.

Normally, if we look directly at the sun, we squint. But during an eclipse, the sun is not as bright, we don't squint, and our eyes are much more exposed to the sun's damaging rays.

Did you know?
Looking directly at the sun's strong rays can burn parts of your eyes, even if you only look at it for a few seconds.

Experts never recommend that you or your children look directly at the sun – and that goes for when you're watching an eclipse too.

What should I do if my child accidentally looks at the sun without glasses during an eclipse?

If your child looks directly at the sun during the eclipse, they could experience permanent eye damage known as solar retinopathy. According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology, this condition happens when intense light damages the retina. Symptoms of solar retinopathy include:

  • A blind spot in one or both eyes
  • Seeing abnormal colors
  • Warped vision
  • Headaches

These symptoms typically appear a few hours after the injury happens. Since the retina doesn't have pain receptors, a child would not know when the injury is happening in real time. If your child has any of these symptoms, visit an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) quickly. They will be able to assess your child's eyes and share the best next steps.

Alternative ways to view the solar eclipse with kids

If you don't have eclipse glasses or your child is too young to understand the importance of keeping their glasses on, don't worry. These methods do not involve viewing the eclipse by looking at the sky.

Create and use a DIY eclipse viewer

Here are two ways to create an eclipse viewer:

Make a pinhole projector: Making a simple pinhole projector is one of the safest ways to view an eclipse. All you need is a cardboard box, paper, aluminum foil, a pushpin and some tape.

This 2-minute video from NASA shares how to make a simple pinhole projector from common materials.

Use a kitchen strainer or colander: Another cool way for kids to safely watch a solar eclipse is to place a kitchen strainer or colander (rounded part up) over a white piece of paper.

Small crescents will appear through the many holes in the strainer or colander, which correspond to the parts of the sun that are blocked by the moon. They'll be small, but quite beautiful because there are so many of them.

This short video from the Smithsonian Institution shows you five ways to view an eclipse, including with a colander or piece of paper with small holes in it.

Watch the eclipse on TV

The absolute safest way to watch the eclipse is at home on TV. Not only do you not have to worry about protecting eyes, you'll be able to see the eclipse in multiple locations and learn more from experts talking about it.

You can tune into NASA's live stream of the eclipse here.

Plan for an increase in traffic

If you're traveling to a specific place to watch the eclipse, it is important to account for distracted drivers and potential car accidents. Be sure to prepare for heavy traffic and stay safe by following these tips:

  • Plan to arrive early and leave late.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas in case you get stuck in traffic for a while.
  • Make sure you have somewhere safe to pull over if you are in the path of totality, so your visibility doesn't change quickly.
  • Check DriveTexas.org for the best route and real-time traffic updates.

Do not try to view the eclipse while driving

Trying to view the eclipse while driving can cause an accident. During the 2017 total eclipse – and the few days before and after it – there was a 31% increase in fatal traffic accidents, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

To help prevent this alarming increase in traffic accidents from happening again, please be sure to:

  • Stick to the speed limit.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Keep your distance from the car in front of you.
  • Wear your seat belt.

By following these key tips, parents and caregivers can enjoy a safe and unforgettable experience viewing a solar eclipse with children. Remember, safety should always be the top priority when witnessing this awe-inspiring celestial event.

Learn more

For more information on how to safely view a solar eclipse, check out these resources:

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solar eclipse, safety, injury prevention, eyes

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