While babies are born with some instinctive behaviors, being able to see perfectly clear images isn’t one of them. Like many other necessary life skills, babies have to develop their vision over time. Luckily, there are many things parents can do to help their child develop healthy vision as they grow.
When babies are first born, they can only see about 8 to 15 inches away, which just happens to be about the distance Baby’s face is from whoever is holding her. She can see the outline and vague expressions on your face while you hold her. That is why one of the first games to play with your baby is the Facial Expressions Game. While you are holding your baby change your facial expressions every once in a while so your child’s eyes get a little exercise trying to examine the changes that have been made. Smile, open your mouth wide in an excited face, blink your eyes big etc. As Baby gets a little older, Peek-A-Boo becomes a popular game. Not only is it amusing for baby, but playing Peek-A-Boo gives your baby a great opportunity to practice focusing her eyes as your image disappears and reappears. Around 6 months old, your baby will begin to grasp the concept of object permanence and may become disinterested in playing Peek-A-Boo. This is your indicator that it is time to begin playing Hide and Seek. Allowing your baby to watch you place a toy under a blanket will likely inspire her to look for it. She now understands that the object doesn’t just magically disappear, so now she’ll want to figure out where it went.
It takes a few weeks for babies to really develop color vision, but once they do they seem to love it. Use brightly contrasting colored toys to stimulate the color vision in your baby. Not only will your baby’s eyes benefit from it, but your baby will find it fascinating to closely examine those brightly colored toys. Tracking colored lines with her eyes is a great exercise for alignment of your baby’s eyes and will eventually inspire your baby to reach for the toys which will help to develop eye-hand coordination. Moving a toy across the line of vision for baby to reach for and track with her eyes is also a great exercise. Mobiles are great additions to your baby’s room for the color and movement they offer.
Your baby will eventually begin moving around more. As she does, her visual coordination and depth perception will get challenged by objects in her way. Trips, falls, and bumps on the head might become common occurrences. You’ll want to watch carefully and guide her around objects that her eyes haven’t yet been able to process as in her way, like counter tops and edges of tables. Learning to maneuver stairs will be another challenge as your toddler learns more about depth perception and coordination.
Playing games with your baby is a great way to help her learn and develop her vision. Unfortunately, if there were an underlying problem with her vision, your baby wouldn’t be able to tell you that with her words. Babies are simply too young to be aware of and express their difficulties in their vision to you clearly. That is why it is recommended that your child’s first eye exam is at 6 months old. A quick scanning to make sure that everything is working as it is supposed to for your baby’s eyes can put your mind at ease as a parent. After 6 months old, we recommend your child’s next follow up eye exam is at 3 years old, unless indicated otherwise by Dr. Smith.
Parenthood is such an exciting time in life. We look forward to helping you get a healthy start on your child’s vision.
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