From the time your baby is born, his vision is maturing and developing. His vision is only partially developed at birth. He can see, but what he sees is not as clear or complete as an adult’s vision. His retina, which helps distinguish color and light, is not fully developed. This is why you might have heard that newborn babies see in black and white. As your baby grows and matures so do the cells in his brain that are responsible for vision. Encouraging your baby to use his vision will help in vision development and will help stimulate visual part of his brain to thrive. Some time during the first few months of life your baby will begin to track objects with his eyes. You should consult your doctor if he is not tracking by the time he is three months old. Here are some visually stimulating activities that you can do with your baby to help improve his vision and encourage visual maturity.
1. Look at black and white (or high contrast) board books together. If you do not have a black and white board book you can make your own with cardstock paper and black markers. High contrast colors, like black and white, are easier for your baby to see. The more your baby uses his vision to see things, the more his vision will thrive.
2. Purchase a mobile or car seat toy with stripes and high contrast. Stripes attract baby’s attention. In fact, if you have your child’s visual acuity screened while he is a baby, the doctor’s office will likely use black and white stripes to measure your baby’s acuity. Babies will naturally look at stripes. Very thick stripes are easy for baby to see but as the stripes get thinner they become more challenging for babies to see. By measuring how well your baby can see different striped cards your doctor can have an idea of how well your baby can see. Stripes are great for improving your baby’s vision. Try to find toys, car seat covers, or even bedroom decor that contains black and white, red and black, or other high contrast bright colored stripes.
3. Encourage play with bright colored rattles or toys. Jingle a bright colored rattle in front of your baby. Let her practice listening to the sound the rattle makes and following the rattle with her eyes. Eventually as her vision improves she will try to reach out and grab the rattle or toy.
4. Play with mirrors. Place the mirror about 8-12 inches away from your baby to start with. Newborns can only focus on objects that are about 8-12 inches away. If you bring things too close or too far away it may be harder for your baby to focus on it. You can use handheld mirrors or purchase a mirrored activity toy for your baby to play with.
5. Play peekaboo or hide and seek with your baby. You can play by covering your face with your hands and then saying “peekaboo” or once your child gets older you can cover a toy with a blanket and see if your baby can find it.