Babies are pretty amazing little creatures! How quickly they grow and develop usually takes every new parent by surprise; it all just goes so fast! What your baby sees and does has a whole lot to do these developments and milestones.
When he or she is born, they can’t see much at all. Even Mom and Dad are just blurry blobs of fuzz! In black and white! But, the eyesight improves quickly and by the time they turn one their vision is nearly as good as ours.
Still, most parents don’t really think about how some of the biggest milestones are directly related to the ongoing development of the eye. It is no coincidence at all that each stage of visual improvement comes with a major developmental milestone.
The first time your baby makes eye contact with you, touches your face, and reaches for a toy all have to do with her finally being able to see all of these items a little more clearly. And just when her eyes advance again, she will probably scoot herself or roll over, as she gains ground in her visual acuity through depth perception improvements.
And then, she will use her pincher grasp to pick up tiny objects she is seeing for the first time. And don’t forget crawling, pulling up, and walking too…these advancements all happen right in correlation with big improvements in vision.
But, it’s still not done yet! When your baby starts recognizing grandma, pointing at objects, and even talking; it’s all because her eyesight is allowing her to connect with her environment.
Right after birth, babies have pretty terrible vision. Close up everything is fuzzy and she is only able to make out variations in light, shapes, and movement. She also cannot see very far away, and her distance of her vision only reaches about 12-18 inches. At this time, babies are most interested in faces; particular of whoever is holding her. She will not be able to see color, and her world is viewed in black and white. She will likely be especially fond of bold, highly contrasting geometric shapes. Large polka dots and checkerboard patterns are some that will be particularly fascinating, but she will mostly be interested in face-to-face engagement. There are plenty of toys that are packaged and labeled for promoting eye development. They are not really necessary, and pretty much anything you put in front of her will suffice. Basic toys and baby-safe items you have laying around the home will do just fine.
11 One Month Old
Sometime beyond the first month, the baby will learn how to focus the eyes. You will notice an increase in his ability to track objects as they move back and forth. The horizontal muscle movements are strengthening. Your baby will also start making more intentional eye contact and may even lock gazes with you occasionally. But, for the most part he has not learned how to use his eyes together, and sometimes you might even wonder if he is cross-eyed. This is usually normal at this age, and the tendency will fade as the baby gets older. All of these are signs of just how quickly the vision is improving as the eyes learn to work together. Soon the eye muscles with strengthen though and his ability to focus will improve. For now, hold objects fairly close to his fair and watch him as he becomes transfixed.
10 Two Months
The ability to see color shows up this month and the baby will quickly development a keen sense for differences in shades, like orange and red for example. Bold primary colors are preferred and she will likely show an interest in more complex patterns. She may start to appreciate variations in shapes and complicated designs. By now your baby is also better able to focus on objects close to the face. The initial hand-eye coordination is also developing at this age. This is a good time to introduce books, brightly colored toys and photos to encourage her to start reaching out for them. But, continued face-to-face time is still beneficial and is often preferred over stimulation by other objects. If you get close enough, baby might try to touch or stroke your face and your mouth as you speak. Close interactions are beneficial for both bonding and visual development.
9 Three Months
Sometime after 3 months of age, the baby will develop the ability to effectively follow a vertically moving item. This is the time when you might find yourself looking above your head or behind you, trying to figure out what he is looking at. He might suddenly become transfixed by the ceiling fan, rainbows or flickers that are formed by light passing though glass, even birds or bugs flying around over head. This is a particularly great time to use mobiles in the crib and to hang interesting objects on the wall. Such sights can be incredibly entertaining, distracting, or even soothing during diaper changes and nap time. You should notice your baby reaching out for these things that interest him. But, don’t automatically give him the item. Allow him to stretch and reach. Eventually this might even lead to him roll over to grab or get closer to something he wants to touch.
8 Four Months
This is the month when your baby will start to become aware of depth perception. This skill is what will allow for him to be able gauge an item’s size, position, and shape before attempting to reach out for it. Her motor skills have advanced enough at this point, to allow her achievements in coordination. This is the time when you might start to notice your baby grabbing at your hair, pinching at buttons on your blouse, or even trying to pull your glasses off. These are signs that she wants to practice her grasping skills. You can help her by offering objects or toys that are easy to grasp. But, resist the urge to put them directly in her hands. Make her work for by placing it just out of reach. This will help in practicing depth perception, coordination, and even dexterity. Through this, he can learn to scoot, pull, or roll over to get something he sees and wants.
7 Five Months
Around this time, your baby will start gaining a foundation for the concept of object permanence. This means that her vision as well as her mental development will help her to understand that something she can’t see is still there. This is the perfect age to introduce games like peek-a-boo. It might also be fun to partially cover a favorite toy and see if she can find it. It is possible that she might notice it with only a tiny part exposed, because she can recognize tiny details or complex patterns on the item. Her color perception is getting much more efficient now. She can probably differentiate between very subtle color difference like peach and light pink. This is how she notices which one specifically appears on the partially hidden, favorite item. At this age, her eyes are capable of working in 3D which also aid in preliminary depth perception.
6 Eight Months
The vision just keeps getting stronger, and you may suddenly notice that your baby recognizes you from across the room. His vision is not perfect yet, but is close to the clarity that some adults have unassisted by glasses. He is estimated to have visual acuity somewhere between 20/200 and 20/400. He will still have a preference for objects that are within reach, and he may be able to recognize people from across the room. He might even see an item he wants that is too far from reach, and this is how crawling begins. As his body coordination and vision both improve, he begins to actively practice his depth perception. At this age, he is learning how to move his body towards an object within his vision. Because of this; babies with the longest crawling times are known to have a better ability for using both eyes together.
5 Nine Months
Baby is looking up, reaching in every direction, and probably moving across the room somehow. That signals it’s time for a new milestone or two. These things will happen soon, sometime in the next month or so. First, the baby will start to notice very tiny items and she will certainly want to pick them up. This has everything to do with visual acuity and coordination, too. She will move beyond whole fist grabbing and will perfect the pincher grasp. Aside from collecting tiny items on the ground, she will want to get up, up, up. She will use her visual strength, depth perception, and her grip to pull herself to the standing position. You might also notice that she is suddenly very good a judging distances and can even throw her ball or toys to you with relative accuracy. This is a big month for visual skills: pinching, standing, and throwing!
4 Ten Months
Good vision and brain development are now helping your baby to have a sense of memory. You might start to notice that your baby is now showing negative or positive affiliations with people, places, or objects. With his eyes he recognizes and with his brain, he remembers. This is why, he might squeal with laughter when he notices the stroller heading toward the park. Or why he might start to cry when you turn down the lights, because he isn’t ready for a nap yet. Together, his eyes and his memory can recall a pattern and general familiarity. This is a good time to really start talking to you baby, giving him play by plays of your activities and where you are going. With vision and memory on his side, he has the skills to start talking when he can put a label on a place or item he recognizes.
3 Twelve Months
Most likely, by now your baby is speed crawling or maybe even walking. Experts say it is better to encourage crawling over early walking, to allow the baby more time to perfect the hand-eye coordination skills that are gained during the crawling phase. At this age, babies are very good at judging distances and at crossing them. Throwing has usually been perfected by now, and throwing a ball can be done with surprising precision. It is pretty clear that baby can see exceptionally well by the first birthday. She can see clearly both close up and distant or moving objects. Her favorite object to look at is still your face, but you probably notice an increased interest in visually dissecting items with moving parts. This is part of her processing development as she learns to understand how things work. Give your baby lots of visual stimuli at this point. Books to read, toys to manipulate, and new places to see give her plenty to explore.
2 Bonus: 15 Months
Around 15 months most babies have visual acuity at 20/50, which will keep improving up until the age of two. The greatest gains will be in hand-eye coordination and depth perception. At this age, your baby might be ready for fine motor activities with his improving vision. He can probably hold a crayon and scribble on a picture. He will also be using his vision to notice interesting or changing components of his environment. This is when we start to see a young toddler in the habit of pointing at everything. He is now noticing familiar items as well as new or visually fascinating objects. He points to let you know that he sees something interesting, and he hopes that you might tell him what it is. He can identify matching items, and notice when something does not belong to a group. Babies at this age also really enjoy holding and looking at picture books.
1 First Eye Exam
Some children do not receive their first official eye exam until they are school aged. However it is possible and even recommended for a doctor to test your child’s vision sometime between the ages of 3 and 4. At this point, your child is capable of looking at an eye chart with letters or pictures. He might also have his eyes dilated during an exam. If needed, he or she can even be fitted for glasses. If you suspect that your child is having trouble seeing or is experiencing some other eye problem, it is important to have him examined early on. Certain conditions are more difficult and sometimes even impossible to treat if you wait too long. At the exam, if there is any reason for concern, your child might be referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist. After the age of 5, your child should receive eye exams once every two unless there is cause for concern. Often times, routine screenings are available through their school.