When my Optometrist prescribed 4-5 hours of patching a day to help with my strabismus and lazy eye, I was not excited. I searched online and everything was geared towards young children, I wanted to know what adults should do during patching.
I discovered new research that found that if you focus on near activities and challenge your eye(s) during patching, it will make your patch time more effective and even decrease the length of time you’ll have to patch.
This comprehensive list of activities for adults (and kids) can be done with eye patching and will keep it interesting and effective in strengthening your lazy eye and overcoming Amblyopia, whether it’s from cataracts, a refractive problem, or strabismus. Be sure to check with your doctor before trying any of these activities and exercises.
- Read and Play Music
- Make and Maintain Eye contact
- Thread Beads
- Do a Puzzle
- Solve Word or Number Puzzles
- Complete Dot-to-Dots
- Play Board Games
- Attend a painting class
- Braid Someone’s Hair
- Write in your journal
- Bake Cookies
- Practice Outdoor Photography
- Play an Outdoor Throwing Game
- Hang a Ball From the Ceiling- The Possibilities are Endless
- Walk Across a Balance Beam
- Jump on a Trampoline
- Play Catch with a Balloon
- Play Catch with a Ball
- Work in the Garden
- Ride a Bike
- Go on a Walk or Hike
- Do Yoga (Beginner!)
What makes these activities effective in treating a lazy eye? It is important to understand the why so that you aren’t just wasting your time. It takes a conscious effort to retrain your eye to become effective at processing the world.
There are so many visual skills that are needed for good vision, 17 to be exact. Each activity strengthens some of those visual skills. Visual Acuity (that 20/20 number from the eye doctor) only reflects our ability to sit still and read letters off at a certain distance.
I’m interested in my eyes also being able to judge distance, focus up close, bring the world into focus, and help me balance and move in my surroundings easily.
These are activities that I have actually done while patching. Some I like more than others, but you can pick and choose the ones that match the skills you want to develop and fit in your lifestyle.
No matter what you do, you will need to make a conscious effort to engage your weak eye. Don’t just use your peripheral vision and quickly glance around, find small details and bring them into focus. Apply that principle to whatever you are doing and you will find success.
If you want to learn more about how patching, eye exercises and vision therapy could potentially help you, schedule a consult with me and we can figure it out together! CLICK HERE to learn more.
It might also be a good idea to take this FREE QUIZ and learn more about how your vision works and if your eyes are working together or not.
Reading is amazing. Your eye must track, focus in on each word and comprehend. It is the mother of all patching exercises, which makes it effective and difficult. Try to spend time everyday reading while wearing your patch. Start with books that have large print and progress towards smaller prints. When I first started, everything was so blurry that I couldn’t make out the words. I would hold a bookmark under each line and move it down as I went. Eventually I progressed to no longer needing the bookmark, but it helped so much in the beginning!
As an adult and busy mom of 4, I don’t have a ton of extra time floating around so I love to be as efficient as possible while I’m patching. I use it as a time to write in my journal, write thank you notes, or update my family blog. Writing isn’t quite as good as reading because I could technically write or type with my eyes closed. I try to focus hard on penmanship and watching what I’m writing carefully for spelling and punctuation. I find that if I focus on neatness, my eye is much more engaged.
If you have been patching for a while and you’re ready for a new challenge, brace yourself because I’ve got one for you! Break out the old trumpet, keyboard, or violin and try reading music and playing your instrument.
With reading and writing, you can make mistakes or miss words and nobody will ever know, including you. Your brain is just so brilliant that it fills in missing gaps.
With music, your ears are involved and tell you when you make a mistake instantly. Reading then playing music requires a whole new level of concentration that is the equivalent of eating raw Kale for your nutrition, not super enjoyable, but so good for you.
I have discovered an app, flowkey, that is so awesome for this! It has music for you to read then you play it on your actual instrument. I use my piano. The app listens to you and if you get a note wrong it turns red and won’t move on until you get it right. This instant feedback fine tunes several important visual skills like visual integration, focus, and central vision.
Not only does reading music engage the eyes and give feedback, it is shown to stimulate more parts of the brain than any other type of activity. Maybe music is the actual mother of all patching activities…
Make and Maintain Eye Contact
Most people with a lazy eye struggle with eye contact. For me, eye contact is physically exhausting for my eyes. One of the most effective exercises I do while patching is simple eye contact.
I actually work on it when I’m not patching too, that is more challenging though because then I bring in all the drama of people seeing the lazy eye. But I’m getting used to it now and it doesn’t really faze me anymore when people are confused when they first meet me. They all figure it out pretty quick.
Look every person you see, right in the eye. Maybe you choose to patch when nobody is around, practice making eye contact with your favorite stuffed animal or small child.
I try to see how long I can maintain eye contact before I can’t stand it and have to look away. In the beginning it was just a few seconds, but now I can manage 15-20 seconds at a time. This forces you to use your central vision and not just peripheral. Eye contact is good for strengthening eye focus and even better for your confidence.
This could be simply done as an exercise, or you could get creative and make some actual jewelry. My favorite is to make pony bead animals with my kids when we go camping. It helps improve depth awareness, fine motor vision skills and focus.
Do a Puzzle
Puzzles are another great way to strengthen a weak eye during patching. Whether you are 95 or 7 years old, there is a puzzle that can interest you. Make sure to choose a puzzle with a ton of detail, odd shaped pieces are best.
If we go extreme and look at a puzzle of the night sky where all the pieces are pretty standard, you don’t need to focus your eyes. You can just feel and guess and check. These types of puzzles are no good for patching. They are way too hard, and just aren’t going to be effective.
Find puzzles with minute details that will keep your eyes searching and focusing on the pieces and the picture on the box. If the pieces have odd shapes you can visually match where they can go, this is another great type of puzzle to do during patching.
These types of pieces are called “random die cut” or “unique cut” pieces. Bits and Pieces is just one of many brands that use these types of pieces and they have hundreds of puzzles to choose from!
There are many puzzles that are made so that if you pick up just about any piece it is possible to figure out where it goes because of unique designs and colors. Here is a great donut one that looks fun! This one from the 80’s might have to go into my collection, it is super rad!
Solve Word and Number Puzzles
You can download apps for crossword puzzles, word search, sudoku, or any other type of puzzle that you enjoy doing. This is similar to reading because it requires you to focus, but like music, you get feedback on whether you are doing it correctly. I actually prefer to do them on paper because I get sick of staring at screens all day!
I have noticed that my brain capacity plummets while I patch so don’t feel bad when you can’t solve a basic sudoku puzzle when you’re normally a sudoku wizard! Here is a free sudoku download that is fairly easy, compared to what you find in books. Answers are included!
Do a Tracing or dot-to-dot Page
Tracing is great to help with tracking. After you take the patch off you get feedback about how well you did. Dot-to-dots are quite a bit harder, but are similar in the way they help with eye movement control.
I made a series of tracing pages for myself to use with patching, here is one of my favorites for your personal enjoyment.
Play Board Games
I love to play games so I try to incorporate them into my patching as often as possible. There is one hang-up. It’s so much harder to win if everything is blurry and hard to read. I always give the disclaimer before the game that since I’m patching I’ll only be working at half power so they have to take it easy on me.
I am lucky to be surrounded by the salt of the earth, my husband and kids gently tease and give me lots of second chances when needed.
My favorite games right now that require enough reading and attention to detail to make them effective during patching are Pandemic and Skull King. Both are fun and very engaging, let me know if you try them and love them as much as me!
Use a Brain Training App
These apps are fun and you can multitask by improving your critical thinking and brain power and eye power at the same time. They all require a subscription to access all the content, but each has a few free sections that are still beneficial.
Attend a painting class
This can be done at a studio where you paint a canvas, mug, plate or whatever medium that company has decided to use. If you want to stay home you can just hit up youtube and find a wide variety of similar classes taught on the web. They lead you step by step and you end up with a work of art.
Braid Someone’s Hair
So many of these ideas just aren’t practical, time wise, for adults. I have three daughters so fixing hair is a daily chore for me. Braiding (especially french braiding) is a great way to strengthen your weak eye. Your eye must be fully engaged and the stakes are high enough that you try extra hard. I don’t want to redo the braid or send my daughter to school with a mess so I try to get it right the first time.
This one is a little bit more advanced, I have learned the hard way! Definitely don’t make a recipe that requires chopping. Save that for when you have both eyes! Reading a recipe takes focus and carefully measuring ingredients is going to require some concentration when you are only using one eye.
Practice Outdoor Photography
If you are an aspiring photographer you know that finding a great setting for a photo takes a good eye. You need to make sure there is nothing weird in the background like power lines or other unwanted items. This kind of activity during patching really helps engage the distance visual skills in focusing and maintaining focus at a distance.
I did not take this picture, but I love it, I would love to see pictures you take while patching! How good can we get with our bad eyes?
Play an Outdoor Tossing Game
There are so many different outdoor games these days and I love every single one of them! These games will work your depth awareness and focus at a distance. These activities are great because you get to spend time with other people. I start to feel isolated when I’m doing my patching, so anything that allows me to spend time with my family is a win!
Horse Shoes, Ladder Toss, and any version of Bean Bag Toss are favorites because it isn’t super fast paced and there is plenty of time to focus and make sure you are fully engaging your eye.
Hang a Ball From the Ceiling- The Possibilities are Endless
For this, I started in the garage with a string we had hanging down to know how far to pull in the cars. I started with a balloon and a tennis racket and would try to see how many times I could hit it. Then the balloon was exchanged for a ball and I eventually switched out the racket for a bat.
I want to be a better athlete, that is actually what motivated me to begin this journey in the first place. Incorporating sports related activities into my patching routine is important to me. I need to develop hand-eye coordination in both of my eyes to become the pro-tennis player I plan to become.
Walk Across a Balance Beam
Balance is undoubtedly linked to vision. If you are patching, chances are that your unmatched eye is not helping out in the balance department much. Doing the simple activity will teach the brain how to use input from your weak eye to help you balance.
If you don’t have a balance beam, try using a 2×4, a line between two types of flooring or just putting down a strip of masking tape to walk along. While you’re walking start by focusing on a distant point.
Once that becomes easy, you can increase the challenge by focusing on a moving target while you walk across the balance beam. This could be a pet, laser pointer, swinging ball, small child, or just switching focus between different items in the distance.
Jump on a Trampoline
We have a small exercise trampoline and jumping on it while patching is surprisingly difficult. You can combine lightly bouncing with just about any visual exercise that your Optometrist has given you and it will challenge you! Many Vision Therapy offices use trampolines so if you have one at home, break it out.
Try tracking a pencil while bouncing, or just staring at it and bringing it into focus (someone else would have to be holding the pencil).
You could also play catch with someone while you bounce, but don’t get hurt…these pictures display a near-injury event that sent my 6 year-old into a fit of giggles. But I caught it, so who is laughing now?!
The great news is that bouncing will give your legs a workout at the same time! Win-win.
Play Catch with a Balloon
Don’t be too surprised the first time you try to play catch while wearing your patch, you will be amazingly more uncoordinated than usual, at least I was. I started with a balloon and tried to play catch with my kids. They were all laughing hysterically at my failed attempts to catch the balloon.
It really was comical. Hand eye coordination is so important and it is a skill that will help you in way more areas than just sports. Start with a ballon, then you can move to faster moving objects with practice.
Play Catch with a Ball
As your eyes get stronger, introduce smaller heavier balls. My kids love to help me with this therapy. They throw it “crazy” and I try to get to it before it touches the ground. We also pass with a soccer ball.
I have tried playing tennis while patching, it was a disaster, I wasn’t ready for that kind of a challenge yet!
Weed the Garden
I love being outside and I love gardening, so adding patching to something that I love makes patching less horrible. Only weed or garden in areas where the plants are established so you don’t unintentionally kill an unsuspecting tomato or strawberry plant. Instead of just haphazardly grabbing for weeds, study each leaf and try to bring them into focus. Maybe patching will be the secret to an amazing bounteous crop this year!
Ride a Bike
But NOT on the road! I would recommend trying this in an empty parking lot, on an uncrowded sidewalk or in your own driveway. This will probably be very difficult so just be aware and stay safe. It can be a great exercise that works so many aspects of vision!
One night we went on a bike ride and I hadn’t patched yet so I decided to give it a try while we went on our ride. We live out in the country so we don’t encounter a lot of traffic. It started getting dark and there were cars coming, I must have started watching the headlights because the other adults yelled for me and I realized I had veered towards the middle of the road. I took the patch off for the rest of the ride and learned my lesson…no patching while on the road!
Go on a Walk
This is only effective if you make it effective. Look for and pay attention to details. What types of plants do you see? What are the numbers on the houses? How many birds can you spot? How many petals on that flower? What is the texture on that leaf?
I recommend going with someone who can help you look out for traffic, your senses just aren’t on point while you patch so you should take extra precautions to stay safe.
Yoga is great for strength and balance training. With a patch on, advanced yoga would be way too difficult, but try a nice easy yoga video or class and see what you can do with only one eye!
Disclaimer: I am not an Eye Doctor and do not recommend patching with these activities unless you have been prescribed patching by your doctor.
Don’t Give Up
Patching is hard, physically and emotionally. It can be frustrating, embarrassing, painful and just annoying. You just need to know that you will definitely make mistakes. Learn to laugh at yourself and see the humor in the situation. Give yourself a break and expect to perform at a lower level than you’re used to. When you make mistakes, let your first reaction be to laugh.
Have confidence, you’re choosing to take care of your vision and that makes you amazing.
Speed bumps along the way are a guarantee, don’t be surprised when you hit one. There will be times where the humor doesn’t come. One day I was patching and turned a corner too sharp and ran right into a door.
My foot got jammed under the door and I hit that bone under my eye brow so hard. It wasn’t funny. It hurt so bad and I ripped off the patch and cried and kicked the door and had a good solid 10 minute pity party. I didn’t patch anymore that day, but I woke up the next morning and got right back at it.
These things are going to happen. Just decide in advance that you will find the humor and if you can’t, that you’ll jump back onboard the patching train and keep trying. Know that it will be hard and choose to face those challenges in advance.
After patching for a few months, I started an adventure in vision therapy that has taken me the rest of the way to strengthening both eyes and gaining 3D vision. Patching jumpstarted the whole process.
To read about my vision therapy adventures, head over here.
If you would like to schedule a consult, CLICK HERE to learn more.