A baby's vision develops over time. They aren't born with perfect vision, but their eyesight gradually improves during the first year of life.
Providing babies with stimulating visual activities helps their vision development. This also helps them become familiar with their surroundings and develop cognitive skills.
Learning what to expect during their first 24 months will ensure your baby's vision is developing properly.
What Does a Newborn See?
Newborns can distinguish light from dark. They can see in black and white with shades of gray. At birth, babies are also sensitive to light. This is why you’ll see them squint or close their eyes when exposed to brightness.
A newborn’s vision is blurry and limited; they'll see things best from 8 to 12 inches away. Although your baby can already see at this age, their brain still can't process what they see.
When Should I Schedule My Child’s First Eye Exam?
According to the American Optometric Association, you should schedule your child's first eye exam at 6 months.1 If your child doesn't experience any vision problems, 6 months is the earliest you should take them for an eye exam.
The doctor will check your child's overall eye development during a comprehensive eye exam. They will also look for any signs of the following:
- Eye misalignment
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
- Drooping eyelids
Having your child tested for vision problems early is important because many can be corrected if treated early.
How Does My Baby’s Vision Develop?
Your baby’s vision will develop over time. Learning about how it develops will help you understand what to expect and when to look for problems.
Birth to 4 Months
Your baby's vision is very minimal during the first few days of life. They will be able to see light and dark but won't be able to distinguish shapes or patterns. However, a newborn's vision will slowly develop to see bright colors.
At 2 months, babies' eyes don't work as well together. You may notice that your baby's eyes appear crossed or wander. This is normal and will improve with time.
At around 3 months, babies can follow a moving object with their eyes. They will also recognize familiar faces, especially their caregivers.
You can stimulate your baby’s vision using a crib mobile. Crib mobiles have bright colors and moving objects that stimulate a baby's vision while lying down. Babies can watch the mobile and learn to focus on the movement of the objects.
5 to 8 Months
At 5 months, a baby's depth perception improves. Depth perception is when a baby can distinguish between close and far away objects. They will also be able to recognize familiar objects from across the room.
Babies also start crawling at 8 months old. This allows them to improve their hand-eye coordination. It also helps them learn about their environment and how to interact with it.
During this time, it's recommended to stimulate their vision as much as possible with bright colors, toys, and pictures.
9 to 12 Months
During 9 to 12 months, your baby continues developing their motor skills. They'll be able to stand and grasp objects, which helps further improve their vision. Their eye color will also become more defined during this time.
With better depth perception, babies can throw things with precision. It's recommended to encourage crawling or walking so your baby becomes more familiar with what happens when their body moves.
12 to 24 Months
At 12 to 24 months old, babies can identify more complex shapes and colors. Their hand-eye coordination continues to improve, and they can even throw things with more accuracy.
At this age, babies can also recognize themselves in a mirror. They may smile or laugh when they see their reflection. Babies can also easily pick up small objects and recognize familiar objects.
Signs of Eye and Vision Problems in Babies
The best way to determine whether your baby has vision problems is to visit an optometrist. They will be able to diagnose any issues and recommend treatments if necessary.
However, some signs can alert you to a potential vision issue. These include:
- Crossed eyes or eyes that don't move together in the same direction
- Excessive tearing
- Red or crusty eyes (can indicate an eye infection)
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Failing to make eye contact with people or objects
- Pupils of different sizes
- White or gray color inside the pupil
If you notice any of these signs, it's best to consult your doctor immediately, as your child may need glasses. Premature babies may be more prone to vision issues and require closer monitoring.
Tips for Parents to Help with Visual Development
Parents and caregivers are crucial in helping their baby's vision develop. Here are a few tips to help with visual development:
Encourage Your Baby to Explore
Introduce new objects and textures they can touch, feel, or taste. This will help them learn about how different things work.
Provide Lots of Stimulating Visual Experiences
You can hang colorful mobiles above the crib for your baby or show them bright pictures. You should also give them toys with different shapes and textures.
Read and Tell Stories
Storybooks with bright and vivid illustrations and simple narratives can help stimulate babies' visual development. You can also start pointing out different objects in the pictures as they age.
Take Them Outside
The outdoors is one of the best ways to develop your baby's vision. Describing the environment will help them better understand the world around them.
Your baby's vision is constantly developing from birth. Learning about what to expect in different months will help you better understand your baby's vision development.
Look out for signs of potential vision problems and consult a doctor if necessary. This will help your child have the best vision possible.
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