I have been doing red lens patching at home for the last three months as part of my prescribed home vision therapy. I am always seeking a new challenge and fresh ideas to strengthen my lazy eye (amblyopia) and correct my eye turn (strabismus).
My Top Ten Red Lens Patch Activities Include
- Writing With a Red Pen or Marker
- Mazes and Tracing
- Word Puzzles
- Sudoku Puzzles
- Board and Card Games
- Apps that Cancel
- Playing Soccer or Catch with a Red Ball
- Mini Trampoline Tracking
- Bonus: Try to See out of Both Eyes at the Same Time
Before attempting any of these activities, make sure to schedule an appointment with a Developmental Optometrist or Ophthalmologist who can help you understand if this treatment could be beneficial for you or your child. I am not a medical professional, but I would be happy to help you understand if these types of exercises could help fix your eyes!
If you are wondering what in the world a Red Lens Patch is, it’s a red transparent patch that filters out anything red in your vision. It is a fabulous tool for strengthening a weak eye while simultaneously encouraging binocular vision (both eyes working together). This type of therapy is called MFBF or Monocular Fixation in a Binocular Field. Check out my post all about over here.
You can only get a red lens patch through a vision specialist like an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist, but you could also make your own (directions here) or just buy red/blue glasses and bust out the blue side. If you do the glasses approach, make sure you find a pair where the red side will be covering your strong eye.
After my first appointment at vision therapy, the Optometrist sent me home with a red lens patch and a list of activities to try. They worked pretty well, but drawing on a paper with a red pen got old really fast.
There are several levels of activities that you can do with a red patch.
- Easy Activities include activities that completely cancel with the red patch. Drawing with a red/orange/yellow pen on white paper or playing jacks with a bouncy ball and jacks that are red/orange/yellow with a white background would be included here. While wearing the patch, anything white turns red, so if you are working with white and red, only the weak eye will be able to see it. This allows that eye to experience “seeing” while the strong eye isn’t fully occluded. Check out the different printables below that are all in red ink that cancels completely!
- Medium Activities use a combination of colors that cancel (red, orange and yellow) with colors that do not. These activities might include doing a crossword, word puzzle or sudoku with a red pen. The strong eye can see the black lines, but only the weak eye can actually see what you are writing. There are many apps available where part of the game “cancels” with the red patch, but other parts do not.
- Advanced activities include doing any of these activities while in motion or with very little red and mostly other background colors.
Most people begin with easier activities and they feel very difficult. When the easy becomes easy, move to medium and then on to hard. Once it all becomes easy, you are ready for more advanced vision therapy. I find that my body has adjusted pretty quickly. After a few months, I am mostly focusing on the difficult activities now.
Warning: do not overdo it! If your optometrist tells you to go for 30 minutes, don’t go for an hour. You will feel nauseous and have a headache for the next 24 hours if you do. Ease into these exercises, retraining the brain is no joke!
Here are my favorite exercises from easiest to hardest:
Writing With a Red Pen or Marker
As an adult, there isn’t a ton of time to give in the day so I try to multi-task my vision therapy with daily life as much as possible. Anytime I need to write, I pull out a red pen and my patch. You can find evidence of this all over my house.
- Every form is filled out in red ink
- Thank you notes and birthday cards- red ink
- To-do lists – red
- My calendar looks like it’s bleeding
- My journal will definitely define the period of my life that included vision therapy with red ink
Sometimes, when I’m being really lazy, I just pull out a white piece of paper and doodle with a red pen for my therapy. It was super effective at first, but not as much anymore.
Mazes and Tracing
Mazes and tracing are great because you need to focus super carefully. When doing a maze I always try to stay exactly in the middle of the path. To make it last longer I then go back and try to draw a second line between the first line I made and the edges of the maze.
Here are a few mazes and tracing pages that my mom and I have made. Did you notice that they are red? This light red is a specific color that cancels completely with the patch. It is perfect when you are first starting. If you want it to be more challenging, just print it out in black and white.
I love sudoku puzzles, but all of the puzzles I find in books and online are way too hard while I’m wearing my red lens patch. My brain isn’t used to doing hard things with my weak eye so I have to do super simplified versions. I made a few to share with you here. They are all the same puzzle, just different levels. The easy is super easy, but that might be where you need to start. My “hard” version is similar to the easy version in most books. The answers are included on the second page so don’t cheat!
Word Shape Puzzles
My mom is a graphic designer and knows how much I love puzzles and riddles. In an effort to help me overcome my lazy eye and vision problems she designs new puzzles for me, almost daily, to do with my red patch. They usually involve inspiring quotes or interesting facts.
Use the word bank to fill in the word shapes to find the message. The top is a dot-to-dot, lift up your pen anytime you get to a star. It is great for patching because you have to scan the page, scan word shapes and scan words to fill them in. It is a great eye workout! Just make sure to use a red pen. Click the link below to print out the PDF.
Board and Card Games
In my family, we play games. We play card games, children’s games, word games, strategy games,
My favorite games that have enough elements that cancel with the red patch to make them effective include:
- Pretty much anything played with face cards; pinochle, hearts, speed, and golf are favorites. I play war and slap jack with the kiddos sometimes too. All the hearts and diamonds cancel super well with the red lens which is fantastic.
- Buy red dominoes and the possibilities are endless. There are a ton of options for games to play and they cancel so well! Here is a link to a website with 10 fun games to play with Dominoes.
- Simple games with red tokens like Sorry and Trouble can work well. Rummikub is also great because half of the tiles (red and yellow) cancel.
- I love more complicated games geared towards adults like Pandemic and Dixit. We host game night frequently and our friends and family all know that I will be wearing my red lens patch if we are having a game night!
Apps that Cancel
Using apps designed to treat strabismus or amblyopia is a super easy way to use the red patch. Most of them are designed to be used with red/blue glasses, but they work great with just a red patch too. They are already designed to cancel with red and most of them have adjustable colors. Check out this post for a list of my 2019 favorites (and this one for 2021 favorites).
I talked all about the benefits of puzzles in this article about using a regular patch for therapy. It also explains how to pick the right one. The only thing I change for the red lens patch is to pick puzzles that have a more red theme with lots of reds, yellows, and oranges.
When you’ve exhausted all of your puzzles, text some friends or family and ask for all of their 100-500 piece puzzles with a red theme. I’ve been amazed by the variety people have offered!
Reading is quite difficult with the red lens patch. When I try to read normal black and white text, the image from my strong eye interferes with the image from my weak eye. To make reading black and white possible I just use a slip of red paper and hold it under the line I am reading to help keep my weak eye engaged.
I have emailed every ebook provider I could find requesting an addition of the option to change the text color to red. So far, I have gotten a lot of “no’s” and “we’ll check on that,” but I’m going to keep trying because it would be awesome to use reading for therapy time.
Playing Soccer or Catch with a Red Ball
I love to play sports, even though my hand -e
We mostly play soccer, but we play games like hot potato and catch too. Soccer is an amazing eye workout. I don’t realize how difficult it is until it’s too late and I feel a headache and nausea coming on. Don’t make the same mistake as me! Set a timer for 30 minutes and don’t go longer.
Fun backstory about the red ball I eventually found:
I went to several stores and just started keeping a look out for a red ball. I told my kids to keep their eyes open too. I didn’t try too hard, there are several on Amazon that I could have just ordered, but I never did. My kids saw me looking at every store for a red ball, to no avail.
One Sunday, after church ended, I saw my 11 year old son, Teagan, speeding down the hall with the perfect red ball. “Mom!! Look what I found!” He was so excited to deliver the much-sought-after item to me. His Sunday school teachers happen to be good friends of mine so when they pulled out a red ball for the object lesson and he said “I need that red ball, can I take it home?” they handed it over without asking questions.
I talked to them about it later and they laughed and said they could tell he wasn’t going to take no for an answer so they just gave it to him. I half-offered to give it back, but asked if I could pay them for it instead because it was the perfect color and size. They of course declined and let me keep it and will receive blessings forever for their generosity.
If you don’t want all the drama, do yourself a favor and just order one off of amazon here.
You can also hang a red ball or balloon from the ceiling and hit it with a tennis racket. Go for a high score! When it starts getting too easy, use a smaller ball and a bat instead of a racket to increase the difficulty.
Mini Trampoline Tracking
I noticed a mini trampoline in the office while at vision therapy and read about it as a part of therapy in my new favorite book, Fixing My Gaze by Susan Barry (full book review here). Every exercise in Vision Therapy seems to begin in a static position when you are sitting or standing. Once it is mastered at that level, they have you do the same thing while jumping on the group or bouncing on a trampoline.
Now that I feel like both of my eyes are pretty strong, the original red lens patching activities that I tried seem pretty easy. I have been challenging myself by doing some activities on the trampoline. You can make up your own, but here are some ideas to get you started.
- Place the mini trampoline in the middle of a room (or the yard if you don’t live in frigid Idaho like me). Find a bunch of red objects and place them around the room, some high, some low, near, and far. I use red helium balloons, my red coat, red yarn, red flowers, peanut butter jars, balls,
redpapers, and anything else I happen upon that is red. I put the red patch on my eye and get on the trampoline and bounce around in a circle calling out the name of each item as I bring it into focus. If you are seeing the item as gray, that is feedback that you are suppressing your weak eye and using your patched, strong eye. Don’t move to the next item until you are seeing the red color.
- Place the Trampoline in front of a screen that has access to youtube. I use my TV. Visual Ex is a youtube channel with simple eye tracking exercises. They have various black and white backgrounds and a little red ball that moves differently in each five minute video. Some move up, others down, some in a circle and so on. While patching your dominant eye bounce on the trampoline and keep your gaze fixed on the red ball. Make sure you are seeing it as red, not gray.
Bonus Idea Number 11: Try to “See” out of Both Eyes at the Same Time
My goal is to have stereopsis, or 3D vision. In order for this to happen, both of my eyes have to be engaged at the same time. The red lens patch is a great stepping stone towards that. When I asked my husband (who has impeccable vision) what he saw when he wore the red patch, he reported that half the world looked red and the other half looked normal.
Now that I know what “normal” is, I know what I am aiming for. When I do any of these exercises, I spend the last five minutes trying to force both of my eyes to see at the same time. (When this was written, I made the mistake of “forcing.” I am leaving this here because it is part of my journey, but know that relaxing is the way, not forcing!)
I try to see the “red” world from my left, patched eye and the “normal” world from my right eye simultaneously.
If I look at a book while wearing the patch, I try to read with my right eye, but then words from the left side of the page jump into my view. Instead of avoiding that, I allow it and try to experience that feeling of both eyes working at the same time. It is very confusing, unnerving, and makes me want to get nervous and close my eyes, but instead, I just get curious. I recognize that it is interesting and allow it. I try to understand what it feels like and memorize that feeling.
This image vaguely represents what I see when this happens. I try to look at the right page with my right eye, but the image from my left eye of the left page pops into my view. Trippy, right?
When doing a word puzzle I watch myself filling in a word with my red pen with my right (weak) eye while simultaneously trying to notice the “red” background to the side from my left eye.
Trying to force the images from both eyes at the same time is very difficult and can be exhausting for my eyes. I can’t handle it for more than five minutes at a time or I start getting headaches and nausea. It is getting easier and I feel like this is a very important step in training my eyes to work together.
There are hundreds of activities to do with a red lens patch to strengthen your weak eye while simultaneously improving binocular vision. These are just a few to get started. It wasn’t until I started using the red lens patch, that I started feeling my eyes try to see at the same time. I know that it works! Let me know if you found these exercises helpful or need help with any of them.