Babies typically have the full range of color vision by 5 months of age. However, colors remain less vivid than in adults.
Brighter shades are easier for babies to distinguish, and they tend to move toward bolder-colored toys and objects.
What Colors Do Babies See First?
Around 8 weeks, babies can start to tell the difference between red and white. Infants also begin developing the ability to see light blue and some greens around 2 to 3 months of age.
Yellows and purples are hard for babies to distinguish. More subtle hues, like pastel colors, are the most difficult for babies to recognize.
As their brain develops, they can see a fuller range of colors.
Good ways to help stimulate your child’s vision include:
- Leaving a night light on in their room to stimulate vision during quiet hours
- Frequently changing your baby’s position so they can see different parts of the room
- Placing objects slightly away from them to encourage reaching
- Choosing colorful toys with different textures
- Playing games such as “patty cake” and “peek-a-boo”
Surrounding your baby with bright, bold primary colors is also a great way to stimulate your child’s vision development and the eye-brain connection.
When Can Babies See the Full Range of Color?
While babies generally start to recognize primary colors (mainly reds and greens) around 1 or 2 months, they don’t see a full range of colors until around 5 months old.
Other vision milestones achieved at 5 months of age include:
- Better depth perception (they can see the world in 3D)
- Picking up a dropped toy
- Turning their head to see an object
- Developing a liking for certain colors
- Being drawn to their image in the mirror
Do Newborns See in Black and White?
Infants are born with a well-established visual system that responds to light and movement. Newborns can see color in the first months of life, but it is not as vivid as adults, and they have trouble distinguishing color tones.1
Because infants have poor visual acuity and color sensitivity, they tend to respond to black, white, and gray tones and high-contrast prints early in life.
An infant’s vision (birth to 4 months) is limited, such as:
- Infants can’t move their eyes between two objects
- Their primary focus is on objects 8 to 10 inches from their face
- Newborns start to focus their eyes on faces around 8 weeks old
- Infants’ eyes may appear crossed or uncoordinated for the first 2 months
- Babies typically begin tracking objects with their eyes around 3 months
The first 4 months of life are an important development stage for an infant’s vision. If their vision is not stimulated, they can lose their visual ability.1
Early Signs of Color Blindness in Babies
Color blindness, also called color deficiency, means you can’t distinguish between specific colors, typically red and green. Color blindness commonly affects both eyes.
Color deficiencies are more common in males. About 1 in 12 men (8%) are colorblind. It is usually inherited at birth through the X chromosome.6
There are various degrees of color blindness ranging from mild anomalous trichromacy (trouble seeing colors in dim light only) to severe monochromatism (only seeing in shades of gray). Severe color deficiency and complete color blindness are uncommon.
It is difficult for parents to know exactly which colors their baby sees. When the child learns to talk and communicate, color deficiency and vision problems are easier to pinpoint.
Early signs of color blindness in children include:
- Using the wrong colors with drawing/coloring an object
- Low attention span when coloring
- Trouble identifying colors
- Problems identifying red or green colored pencils
- Smelling food before eating
- Sensitivity to bright lights
- Difficulty reading colored pages
- Complaining of headache when looking at something on a red or green background
When to Worry About Your Baby’s Vision
Diagnosing vision problems in babies can be tricky since they are non-verbal and their vision is constantly developing.
Common warning signs associated with childhood vision disorders include:
- Misaligned eyes after 4 months of age
- Grayish or white-colored pupil
- Eyes that flutter quickly from side-to-side
- Eye pain and itchiness
- Redness that doesn’t go away after a few days
- Pus or crust in the eye
- Drooping eyelids
- Overly sensitive to light
When to See a Doctor
You should bring your baby to the doctor if you notice any physical eye symptoms, sudden vision, or behavioral changes.
While it is recommended that babies as young as 6 months old should get a comprehensive eye exam, you may want to take them in earlier if you notice the following symptoms:
- Frequently rubbing their eyes
- Covering or closing one eye
- Tilting the head forward
- Excessive blinking
- Eye squinting
- Bringing books or toys close to their face
- Often bumping into things or seeming unusually clumsy
Treating Color Blindness in Children
There is no cure for color blindness. However, it is a manageable condition. Children tend to adapt and compensate easily, allowing them to live a normal, healthy life.
Some children are unaware that they are color blind until they have routine screening.
Tips and tools that help children manage color blindness include:
- Alerting their teacher so they can accommodate accordingly
- Writing in black on a whiteboard instead of colored markers
- Labeling crayons, colored pencils, and markers
- Teaching the colors of everyday items (firetrucks are red)
- Using color-correcting glasses
Babies can see a full range of colors starting at 5 months of age. Bold primary colors, specifically red, are the easiest for infants to see. Pastels and more subtle hues are the most difficult for babies to recognize.
Since vision is learned, it is important to routinely offer your baby visual stimulation to help with eye/brain development. Common stimulation activities include bright-colored toys and books, keeping a light on during quiet time, and frequently changing your baby’s position so they can look around.
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