Babies learn to see over a period of time, much like they learn to walk and talk. They are not born with all the visual abilities they need in life. The ability to focus their eyes, move them accurately, and use them together as a team must be learned. Also, they need to learn how to use the visual information the eyes send to their brain in order to understand the world around them and interact with it appropriately.
From birth, babies begin exploring the wonders in the world with their eyes. Even before they learn to reach and grab with their hands or crawl and sit-up, their eyes are providing information and stimulation important for their development.
Steps in Infant Vision Development
At birth, babies can't see as well as older children or adults. Their eyes and visual system aren't fully developed. But significant improvement occurs during the first few months of life.
The following are some milestones to watch for in vision and child development. It is important to remember that not every child is the same and some may reach certain milestones at different ages.
Birth to four months
* At birth, babies' vision is abuzz with all kinds of visual stimulation. While they may look intently at a highly contrasted target, babies have not yet developed the ability to easily tell the difference between two targets or move their eyes between the two images. Their primary focus is on objects 8 to 10 inches from their face or the distance to parent's face. Perfect for gazing into each other's eyes whilst feeding.
* During the first months of life, the eyes start working together and vision rapidly improves. Eye-hand coordination begins to develop as the infant starts tracking moving objects with his or her eyes and reaching for them. By eight weeks, babies begin to more easily focus their eyes on the faces of a parent or other person near them. 6-8 weeks is a great age to start attending Spark Sensory sessions as this is when your babies vision really starts to take off.
* For the first two months of life, an infant's eyes are not well coordinated and may appear to wander or to be crossed. This is usually normal. Eye tracking games and simple peekaboo rhymes are perfect for helping develop the tiny eye muscles and fire the neurons in the brain, transmitting all those newly acquired sight nerves across neural pathways.
* Babies should begin to follow moving objects with their eyes and reach for things at around three months of age.
Five to eight months
* During these months, control of eye movements and eye-body coordination skills continue to improve.
* Depth perception, which is the ability to judge if objects are nearer or farther away than other objects, is not present at birth. It is not until around the fifth month that the eyes are capable of working together to form a three-dimensional view of the world and begin to see in depth.
* Although an infant's color vision is not as sensitive as an adult's, it is generally believed that babies have good color vision by five months of age.
* Most babies start crawling at about 8 months old, which helps further develop eye-hand-foot-body coordination.
Nine to twelve months
* At around 9 months of age, babies begin to pull themselves up to a standing position. By 10 months of age, a baby should be able to grasp objects with thumb and forefinger.
* By twelve months of age, most babies will be crawling and trying to walk. Parents should encourage crawling rather than early walking to help the child develop better eye-hand coordination.
* Babies can now judge distances fairly well and throw things with precision.
One to two years old
* By two years of age, a child's eye-hand coordination and depth perception should be well developed.
* Children this age are highly interested in exploring their environment and in looking and listening. They recognize familiar objects and pictures in books and can scribble with crayon or pencil.
Our Spark Sensory 'Little Sparks' and 'Sparks on the Move' classes help support the development of our children’s sight in a number of ways. We carefully select contrasting colourful sensory equipment and use this in songs and movement games to stimulate your babies sense of sight. We always sit in a close circle, allowing your babies to recognise other babies and focus on their activities and movements in an inclusive sensory environment.
Our sensory light play inside the dome is hugely stimulating and engaging. For younger babies it helps them to focus, track images and recognise pattern and shape. For our older babies it encourages investigative play, understanding of cause and effect and promotes a huge sense of awe and wonder.
Studies show that children; especially babies, prefer the human face to all other patterns and images, so we promote activities which encourage you and your child to bond by letting them study your facial expressions, encouraging that closeness, this could be peekaboo games or massage and relaxation time.
So much visual stimulation... in just an hour! There's no wonder people are talking about the 'Spark effect', also known as a great big snooze after a session. That's your babies way of processing and organising all the visual stimulation they've just experienced, think of it as a sensory pit stop! Happy Days 😀