Baby Vision Development

image001One of the most precious moments for a new parent is when their child opens their eyes and makes eye contact for the first time. But it should not be alarming if this does not happen right away. It may take time for your newborn’s visual system to develop. Within the first week of life children are not able to see in much detail and most of their impressions of things around them will be in shades of gray. It will take a few months for your child to fully develop their vision. Understanding the milestones in baby visual development can help you determine if your child can see properly at these stages and when you should worry about vision development problems in your baby.

Baby Vision Development-- When It Develops

Unlike hearing which will be fully developed within a month of your baby being born, your baby’s sight will develop over the first 6-8 months. By the end of this process your child should be able to see as well as an adult.

Your child’s eyes are capable of seeing when they are born, but their brain is not yet ready to process the information the eyes are taking in which can result in their vision being fuzzy. As the brain develops it will be easier for your child to see clearly, and this ability should grow by month.

Baby Vision Development-- How It Develops

When they are first born your child will not be able to focus on anything more than 8-12 inches away. They can detect shapes, light and movement beyond this point, but it will be blurry. Here is baby vision development by months:


Vision Development Description

1 month—start to focus and track things

Your child could not see much when they were born which could have affected their eye movements. Within the first month your child will start to be able to focus both eyes and track objects that are moving. They may enjoy tracking objects as they increase this ability.

2 months— see primary colors

Your baby should be able to see colors from birth but they will have trouble distinguishing between tones which is likely why they prefer things that are in black and white. Over the next few months they will learn to distinguish between colors and will likely start to prefer things in primary colors with details and patterns. Encourage this by showing them lots of pictures or colored toys.

4 months—depth perception: determine size and shape

By 4 months your child’s depth perception will be developing which should make it easier for them to determine an object’s size, position and shape as they try to reach for things. By 4 months your child should also have developed the motor skills and brain maturity to move objects or grasp small toys.

5 months— distinguish hues and tracking ability improvement

Your baby should be improving their ability to spot and track small objects. They may be able to recognize objects even if they only see a portion of them. They should also be developing object permanence that allows them to realize an object exists even if they cannot see it. They should be able to distinguish between similar hues in color.

8 months—adult-level vision


Your child’s vision should be almost to an adult level at this point regarding their depth perception and clarity. Their attention will likely be more focused on nearby objects, but they should be able to recognize objects or people from across the room. The eyes should also be reaching their final color, though subtle changes may still occur later.

9-12 months—hand-eye coordination


By 9-12 months babies should be able to use their hewands and eyes together. At around 9 months babies will start to pull themselves up so they are standing. By around 10 months they should be able to use their forefinger and thumb to grab objects. By one year most babies will be able to crawl and attempting to walk. Parents should encourage crawling rather than pushing their children to walk early because this will help them develop quality hand-eye coordination.

2 Years— explore the world with all senses and skills

By age 2 a child should have developed depth perception and hand-eye coordination. Children in this age range should be interested in looking, listening and exploring the world around them. They should be able to scribble using a pencil or crayon and should be able to recognize pictures of objects that are familiar.

What You Should Do to Help Baby Vision Development

1. Take Your Baby to the Doctor for Vision Checkup

Your doctor should examine your child’s eyes at their checkups to ensure they are aligned correctly and your child can move them without difficulty. If you have a history of eye problems, especially those that developed in childhood, you should make sure your doctor is aware of this so they can watch for the signs.

By the time your child is 3-4 your doctor may start to examine how well your child can see using standard eye exams. If the doctor detects any trouble they may refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist to get a more formal diagnosis. This can help you to correct problems as soon as possible.

2. Keep Your Face Close so that Your Baby Could See Clearly

Studies show that babies tend to prefer human faces to other forms of visual stimulation so you should work to keep your face close to your child when they are young. By the time they reach 1 month anything you put into your child’s line of vision should spark their interest.

3. Use Colorful and Interesting Toys

Developmental toys to help stimulate vision are widely available. Move something bright in front of your child’s face, back and forth or up and down, to attract their attention. By 3-4 months old your child should be able to follow the object. Take note of things your child finds interesting such as moving and encourage them to watch these. Also try decorating in colors your child seems to prefer such as primary tones. Place objects in these colors just out of reach so your child can focus on watching them.

4. Make Changes and Movements

When your child is under 4 months you can change their crib position, place a light in their room or talk to your baby as you move around to encourage them to focus on different objects. You can also alternate sides when feeding or keep objects out of reach when playing to encourage them to focus.

5. Hang Objects above Crib and Play Games

As your child gets older you can hang objects above their crib such as a mobile for them to focus on. Give them plenty of play time and provide them with toys they can hold and inspect for more detail. Play games such as patty cake which requires your child to focus on moving objects. By the time your child reaches 9-12 months you can play hide and seek to improve their visual memory and name things during play to encourage word association. Also encourage your child to move around and explore their world on their own.

When Should You Be Worried?

Your child’s doctor will check their eyes when you visit but if you notice signs of a problem be sure they are aware of it.

  • Your baby has trouble moving their eyes in all directions
  • Your baby cannot track an object by 3-4 months old
  • Your baby’s eyes are usually crossed or one of their eyes moves in and out
  • Your babies eyes are not able to hold still or tend to jiggle
  • One of your baby’s eyes persistently drains or seems very light sensitive
  • One of the pupils appears to be white

Premature babies or those that had an infection or required oxygen at birth have a higher risk of developing trouble with their eyes. Your baby’s doctor will consider their premature status when they perform examinations to ensure no problems are overlooked.