Eye development is one of the most intricate and interesting parts of a growing baby. Don’t blink—with new changes every month, vision progress happens fast. While every child reaches milestones at different times, here’s a general, month-by-month outline of what goes on from behind your baby’s eyes.
Even before your fetus resembles a human being, the eyes know their place. By day 22 after conception, two small indents begin to show on the face.
At 6 weeks post-conception, the eyes begin to form and at around 4 months your baby’s eyes can detect light even though the eyelids haven’t opened. This early exposure to light is good for healthy eye development.
As soon as your baby is born, they can basically only see in black and white since newborns have difficulty differentiating between colors with similar tones, like blues and greens. This is why babies at this age love highly contrasted colors that are easier to tell apart.
Newborns are only able to see about 8 to 12 inches away from their face. This is about the distance from their face to their mother’s face while breastfeeding.
Newborns’ vision is very blurry, like being in a dense fog. Your baby’s eyes are also not very sensitive light, so bright lights during naps won’t usually affect their sleep.
By the time they’re one month old, babies have taken a liking to geometric patterns in addition to contrasting colors. Stimuli like these are great for vision development early on.
If you see your child staring at your face while you play with them, this is your baby taking in and recognizing your features. This is a great time to play and smile closely to their face to stay in their focus.
Your child’s eyes may occasionally wander or appear to cross. Don’t worry, though—this is a normal step in strengthening focus. If you see this happen frequently, you may want to consult an eye doctor.
At two months old, your baby is working hard on focusing their eyes. They’ll now be able to focus on the face of somebody in front of theirs and may even respond with a giggle when you smile at them.
Their vision-hearing coordination will now be more accurate, meaning if you shake a rattle or say their name, they’ll likely turn their head in the direction of the sound.
Your baby will start to follow objects at around three months. As you pass toys in front of their field of view, they’ll learn to follow by turning their head and soon by using just their eyes.
As babies begin to reach for toys and items in their field of view, their brains begin practicing coordination between hands and eyes. If you hold two toys in front of them, they may even start to switch their focus between the two without moving their head.
4-month old babies grow a lot! Your child will start to develop color vision. While not crystal-clear, colors only become more defined from here on out.
They’ll be able to focus their attention on people and objects that are farther away, maybe even across the room. Babies at this age also like looking at themselves in reflections.
Use this stage to talk to your child while you move around so they can learn how sound can come from different places.
Depth perception will start to develop around 5 months of age, allowing your child to begin seeing a more three-dimensional world. They may even start to recognize an object while part of it is hidden.
A 5-month-old’s hand-eye and foot-eye coordination continue to develop and improve with movement and playtime. Does your baby love playing peek-a-boo? Great! This helps their visual memory and the understanding that objects exist even if they’re hidden for a moment.
At the six-month mark, color vision is usually notable. Your baby can also follow moving objects in their field of vision more accurately.
Between six and twelve months, you should schedule your baby’s first eye exam to see how well their vision is developing. The doctor will check your child’s eyes for:
It’s around 7 months when depth perception and body-eye coordination really begin to take shape. Babies also begin to get more intuitive at this time. If you’re looking at an object, they’ll try to figure out what you’re so interested in.
They’ll also start to connect what you’re looking at and the word or words you use to describe it.
Since most children begin to crawl around 8 months, hand-eye and foot-eye coordination are put to the test. At this stage, parents should be more alert for possible eye injuries while your child is moving around. Clarity and depth perception are nearing adult-level.
At nine months, your baby may begin seeing places to hold on to and pulling themselves up to stand on two feet. Their brains will be hard at work on visual memory. Use your face and objects to play hide-and-seek type games to improve their memory.
By 10 months of age, color vision should be at the same level as in adults. They’ll also be able to pick up small objects they see by using their thumb and forefinger. This is good practice for their fine motor skills and finger-eye coordination.
Babies can better recognize people and faces around this time, both in-person and with pictures. Overall, 11-month-old children show more sustained interest in things they are watching or staring at. Continue naming objects as you show them to help with word association.
Happy birthday! By the time your child reaches one year old, they’ll likely have been crawling and now are eager to walk. While walking is exciting, crawling can do a better job at improving hand-eye and foot-eye coordination, so don’t discourage crawling if their first steps are coming early.
Also at one year old, most babies can judge distances better than before. They’ll also be able to throw objects with better precision (put away that vase!).