AIMS--To investigate how young children develop the ability to undergo a visual field evaluation using regular automated perimetry. METHODS--The study included 42 normal girls aged 5, 6, 7, and 8 years. Twelve locations in the 15 degrees eccentricity were tested in one eye, using an Octopus 2000R perimeter with a two level strategy. False positive and false negative catch trials were presented. The examination was performed three times in succession. Before the examination procedure, a specially designed programme was conducted for progressive familiarisation. RESULTS--During the familiarisation procedure, it was found that all of the 5-year-old children, seven of the 6-year-old children, and three of the 7-year-old children were unable to perform immediately, and correctly, the instructions given during the familiarisation phase; these children took from 30 seconds to 3 minutes to comply with the examiner's requests. With the exception of one 5-year-old child, all tested subjects completed the planned procedure. The mean proportion of false negative answers in catch trials was 1.6%. The mean proportion of false positive answers was 12.2%. The quadratic dependency on age suggested by the averages was not significant (F(3,116) = 0.88; p = 0.45). Detection stimulus improved with age, as shown by the fact that probability of perceiving dim stimulus increases significantly (F(3,116) = 12.68; p < 0.0001). CONCLUSION--Children did remarkably well regarding both the duration of the examination and the reliability of the answers. A preliminary familiarisation phase with a specially designed adaptation programme was found to be mandatory with children aged 7 or under. To our knowledge, this is the first time that such an investigation has been performed.