As you hold your newborn, you may wonder what the child sees as he or she gazes back into your eyes. The answer depends on the age of your newborn, and how far away you are standing. Unless your child has a visual impairment, the majority of infants have the ability to see light and patterns. However, for about the first eight weeks or so, your infant cannot focus on anything that is a foot or more away from his or her eyes.
Vision gradually becomes clearer as the eyes start working together in unison. By eight weeks of age, infants begin to focus their eyes on the eyes of a parent or a person near to them. Appropriately enough, the face is the most interesting thing to your baby at this age (followed by high-contrast items such as a checkerboard), so be sure to allow plenty of up-close time. (Extensive research in the stimulation of infant cognitive development revealed that infants actually preferred black and white images to colours images. That same research showed that infants enjoyed looking at images that had contrasting colours and complex images such as checker boards, bulls-eyes and slanted lines and stripes. And when an infant fixates on a pattern, there are changes in his/her brain wave activity and there is an increase in the blood flow to the areas of the brain involved in the stimulation.)
Two-month olds have the ability to distinguish some reds and some blues from the colour white but will have trouble distinguishing colours with similar tones/shades. For the next few months though, the child will work on distinguishing colors resulting in a preference for bright primary colors and more detailed and complicated designs and shapes. Encourage this by showing bright pictures, photos, board books, and toys. For the next couple of months, your infant will also be perfecting their object-tracking skills.
By four months of age, the infant’s colour vision is similar to an adult’s. Your baby is beginning to develop depth perception as well. They are also gaining better control of their arms, so watch out…they’re likely to start grabbing accurately for things like your hair and earrings!
At approximately five months of age, your baby is getting better at spotting very small objects and tracking moving things. He may even be able to recognize an object after seeing only part of it — the basis of hide-and-seek games you’ll be playing in the coming months. He can probably also distinguish between similar bold colors and will start working on more subtle differences in pastels.
At eight months of age, your baby’s vision — previously about 20/40 — will be almost adult-like in its clarity and depth perception, though the child’s short-range sight will still be better than his long-range acuity. His vision will be good enough to recognize people and objects across a room. And his eyes are also probably close to their final color, though you may see subtle changes later.
As your child grows, he’ll use his eyes to take in massive amounts of information about the world around him. It is this information, which will, in turn, stimulate the development of his brain and lead to physical accomplishments such as sitting, rolling over, crawling and walking.