Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age (2022)

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.

Eye and vision problems in infants can cause developmental delays. It is important to detect any problems early to ensure babies have the opportunity to develop the visual abilities they need to grow and learn. Parents play an important role in helping to assure their child's eyes and vision can develop properly.

(Video) Your Baby - Visual Development - Birth to One Month

Baby's first eye exam

Even if no eye or vision problems are apparent, at about age 6 months, you should take your baby to a doctor of optometry for his or her first thorough eye examination. Your doctor of optometry will test for many things, including nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism as well as eye movement ability and eye alignment. Your doctor will also check the overall health of the eyes. Eye health problems are not common, but if present early detection and treatment offer the best option.

InfantSEE ® managed by Optometry Cares ®—The AOA Foundation is the American Optometric Association's public health program designed to ensure that eye and vision care becomes an integral part of infant wellness care to improve a child's quality of life. Under this program, participating doctors of optometry provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. Visit the InfantSEE website to learn more and locate a doctor in your area who can provide a free infant assessment.

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.

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Birth to 4 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 the parent's face.
  • 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.
  • 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. However, if an eye appears to turn in or out constantly, an evaluation is warranted.
  • Babies should begin to follow moving objects with their eyes and reach for things at around three months of age.

5 to 8 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 5 months of age.
  • Most babies start crawling at about 8 months old, which helps further develop eye-hand-foot-body coordination. Early walkers who did minimal crawling may not learn to use their eyes together as well as babies who crawl a lot.

9 to 12 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.

1 to 2 years

  • By 2 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 crayons or pencils.

Signs of eye and vision problems

The presence of eye and vision problems in infants is rare. Most babies begin life with healthy eyes and start to develop the visual abilities they will need throughout life without difficulty. But occasionally, eye health and vision problems can develop. Parents need to look for the following signs that may be indications of eye and vision problems:

  • Excessive tearing may indicate blocked tear ducts.
  • Red or encrusted eyelids could be a sign of an eye infection.
  • Constant eye turning may signal a problem with eye muscle control.
  • Extreme sensitivity to light may indicate an elevated pressure in the eye.
  • The appearance of a white pupil may indicate the presence of eye cancer.

The appearance of any of these signs should require immediate attention by a doctor of optometry.

What parents can do to help with visual development

There are many things parents can do to help their baby's vision develop properly. The following are some examples of age-appropriate activities that can assist an infant's visual development.

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Birth to 4 months

  • Use a nightlight or other dim lamp in the baby's room.
  • Change the crib's position frequently and change the child's position in it.
  • Keep reach-and-touch toys within the baby's focus, about eight to twelve inches.
  • Talk to the baby while walking around the room.
  • Alternate right and left sides with each feeding.

5 to 8 months

  • Hang a mobile, crib gym, or various objects across the crib for the baby to grab, pull and kick.
  • Give the baby plenty of time to play and explore on the floor.
  • Provide plastic or wooden blocks that can be held in the hands.
  • Play patty cake and other games, moving the baby's hands through the motions while saying the words aloud.

9 to 12 months

  • Play hide and seek games with toys or your face to help the baby develop visual memory.
  • Name objects when talking to encourage the baby's word association and vocabulary development skills.
  • Encourage crawling and creeping.

1 to 2 years

  • Roll a ball back and forth to help the child track objects with the eyes visually.
  • Give the child building blocks and balls of all shapes and sizes to play with to boost fine motor skills and small muscle development.
  • Read or tell stories to stimulate the child's ability to visualize and pave the way for learning and reading skills.

Find a Doctor of Optometry

(Video) Baby Month By Month Development and Growth After Birth
(Video) Baby and Toddler Milestones, Dr. Lisa Shulman

FAQs

What is an infant's vision at birth? ›

At birth, a newborn's eyesight is between 20/200 and 20/400. Their eyes are sensitive to bright light, so they're more likely to open their eyes in low light.

What is a baby's vision like at 2 months? ›

Two Months to Three Months

Your baby should be following objects or “tracking” and should start reaching for things. The baby recognizes your face, and remembers what he or she sees. You can help your baby's vision by using a mobile, or holding up bright objects in front of her for the baby to reach for.

What is the vision of a 1 year old? ›

Now, your little one can see quite well near and far and even focus on quickly moving objects. Your baby's motor skills are working together with eyesight (hand–eye coordination), and it's likely that he or she can spot a toy across the room, focus on it, move to it, pick it up, and explore it in lots of ways.

At what age do babies have vision? ›

5 to 8 months

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 5 months of age.

What's a baby's vision at 3 months? ›

Your baby's vision: 3 to 4 months old

Has baby begun watching closely from her bouncy seat as you cook dinner on the far side of the room? That's because around this age, babies can see anywhere from several feet in front of them to all the way across the room. Tracking with her eyes.

How far can a baby see at 2 months? ›

How far can a 2-month-old see? Your 2-month-old can see people and objects as far as 18 inches away. They may even be able to follow your movements when you're close by. Color differences are becoming clearer to your baby, and they'll start to distinguish shades such as red and yellow.

How long does it take for a baby to see clearly? ›

By around 8 weeks of age, most babies can easily focus on their parents' faces. Around 3 months, your baby's eyes should be following things around. If you waggle a brightly colored toy near your baby, you should be able to see their eyes tracking its movements and their hands reaching to grab it.

Do babies see color? ›

Just after birth, a baby sees only in black and white, with shades of gray. As the months go by, they will slowly start to develop their color vision at around 4 months. So you're not imaging it when you see your baby fixate on your face and eyes, especially during a feeding, when your face is about a foot away.

What can babies see at 4 months? ›

Now at four months, baby's vision has sharpened to about 20/40. Babies at this age can pick out more subtle color contrasts, such as a red button on a red shirt. They also can see across the room, although they still prefer looking at people close-up.

How far can a 12 month old baby see? ›

By the time your baby is 12 months old, she will be able to see as well as a normal adult. Your baby will have depth perception that will allow her to tell the difference between far and near. She will also be able to recognize the people she knows coming from a distance.

What colors can babies see at 2 months? ›

Babies begin to perceive colors more and more between 2 and 4 months old. To start, they're able to tell the difference between shades of greens and reds. The exact timing for when your baby will see these colors is individual, so there's no set week or month when it happens for all babies universally.

What is a baby's vision at 1 month? ›

Sight. A newborn baby's vision is very fuzzy, but within one month they are able to focus a bit better. They still can't see far - around 30cm - so when you smile at your baby, lean in close.

At what age does vision become 20 20? ›

Average age child develops 20/20 vision

Most children will develop 20/20 vision by the time they reach 2-3 years old. Some children experience delays in vision development, and others never develop 20/20 vision. Children may experience vision problems around 6-12 years old.

How far can 5 month old see? ›

What Can My Baby See? Babies this age can see much farther away (several feet or more) than just a few months ago. They usually can focus without going cross-eyed and can tell the difference between different colors. Your baby is becoming much more aware of the environment.

How far can an 8 month old see? ›

By about 8 months old, your baby will see the world almost as well as you do. While your newborn's eyes are physically capable of seeing just fine at birth, their brain isn't ready to process all that visual information, so things stay fuzzy for a while.

How Far Can 3 months old See? ›

By 1 month old they'll be able to briefly focus on objects as far as three feet away. By 2 or 3 months of age your baby's ability to focus may be developing steadily. Your baby may be able to turn both eyes inward, known as convergence, to focus on something nearby such as their hands.

Can 3 month old see color? ›

By 3 to 4 months: Most babies can focus on a variety of smaller objects and tell the difference between colors (especially red and green). By 4 months: A baby's eyes should be working together. This is when babies begin to develop depth perception (binocular vision).

What can a 3 month old do? ›

Movement Milestones
  • Raises head and chest when lying on stomach.
  • Supports upper body with arms when lying on stomach.
  • Stretches legs out and kicks when lying on stomach or back.
  • Opens and shuts hands.
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are placed on a firm surface.
  • Brings hand to mouth.
  • Takes swipes at dangling objects with hands.
1 Jun 2009

Can a 2 month baby watch TV? ›

Pediatricians generally recommend keeping children under 18 months from viewing screens. Even after that age, parents should always accompany children with TV watching and ensure they don't get too much screen time, inadvertently impacting their behavioral health.

How far can 7 month old see? ›

What Can My Baby See? Babies this age can see much farther away (several feet or more) than just a few months ago. They can usually focus without going cross-eyed and can tell the difference between different colors. Your baby is becoming much more aware of the environment.

How far can a 6 month old see? ›

Senses: Your Baby Can See Across the Room

Around the six-month mark, your little boy's depth perception has improved. He will be able to see much further away now, perhaps even several feet or more. In fact, he can now focus on objects without getting cross-eyed, and can also tell the difference between colors.

When do babies get their eye color? ›

Although you can't predict the exact age your baby's eye color will be permanent, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says most babies have the eye color that will last their lifetime by the time they're about 9 months old. However, some can take up to 3 years to settle into a permanent eye color.

What age does a baby laugh? ›

Most babies will begin laughing around month three or four. However, don't be concerned if your baby isn't laughing at four months. Each baby is different. Some babies will laugh earlier than others.

When do babies start hearing after birth? ›

Although your baby's ears are well-developed at birth, it may take up to six months before she can fully hear and understand a range of sounds.

Do babies prefer male or female voices? ›

No preference was observed. Subsequent testing revealed that they could discriminate between the voices but that the voices lacked reinforcing value. These results contrast sharply with newborns' perception of their mothers' voices, in particular, and female voices, in general.

When do babies cry tears? ›

When do real tears appear? Around 2 weeks old, your baby's lacrimal glands will begin increasing their production of tears, though you still may not notice much change. Sometime between 1 and 3 months of age is typically when babies actually start shedding more of the salty stuff when they cry, creating visible tears.

What colors do babies like? ›

From birth to four months

In the first few months, babies demonstrate a keen interest in the primary colours of red, green and blue, which is why they prefer pictures and toys in these colours. Bright colours help the child to develop their visual capacity. Having said this, babies favour shades of red above all.

What does a 20 40 vision mean? ›

20/40 indicates that the line you read correctly could be read by a person with normal vision from 40 feet away. ‌ Someone with a visual acuity result of 20/200 is considered legally blind.

Why do babies stare at walls? ›

Babies' eyes are drawn to stark contrasts. If there are two contrasting colors side by side, your baby's eyes will probably be drawn to it. It may even be something as simple as where a piece of furniture meets a wall. That may be why your baby is staring at what looks like nothing.

Why do babies smile in sleep? ›

For example, many researchers note that babies may twitch or smile in their sleep during active sleep. When babies go through this type of sleep, their bodies can make involuntary movements. These involuntary movements might contribute to smiles and laughter from babies during this time.

Why is red the first color babies see? ›

An infant's vision is blurry and since it can't focus farther than 12 inches, it is just the red colour which can get into the circle of its vision, and thus, can easily be processed by the developing receptors and nerves in the baby's eyes. The colour red is the one that catches their sensitive retina and eye nerves.

Why do babies look up at the ceiling and smile? ›

An infant's brain is developing, absorbing, and processing their new surroundings and all of this is happening while their eyes are getting used to our world, and their vision is developing focus.

How far can 1 month old see? ›

Baby's eyes still wander and may sometimes cross, which could make you wonder: How far can a one-month-old see? They can now see and focus on objects that are about 8 to 12 inches away. They like black and white patterns and those in other contrasting colors.

How much can a 8 week old baby see? ›

Your baby can see objects about 45 cm away. Your baby will watch you move around now, following you with their eyes from side to side as well as up and down. Your 2-month-old is more alert to sound and will look at you when you talk. Your baby is also more vocal, gurgling and making single vowel sounds like 'a' or 'o'.

What is normal visual acuity for a 2 year old? ›

The data suggest that normal presenting HOTV acuity using the ATS protocol may be defined as follows: 20/63 or better for 30 to 35 month-old children; 20/50 or better for 36 to 47 month-old children; either 20/40 or better, or 20/32 or better, for 48 to 59 month-old children; and 20/32 or better for 60 to 72 month-old ...

What is normal vision for a child? ›

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued standards for visual acuity at different ages, including: 20/40 for children 3 to 4 years old. 20/30 for older children. 20/20 for school-age children.

What is a normal eye vision? ›

20/20 vision refers to “normal” vision, not “perfect” vision. Visual acuity is a term that means clarity or sharpness of vision and that the objects you see are crisply outlined and not blurry. Calling normal vision “20/20 vision” is true for eye care professionals in the U.S., but not everywhere in the world.

How good can a 10 month old see? ›

Now, your little one can see quite well near and far and even focus on quickly moving objects. Your baby's motor skills are now working together with eyesight (hand–eye coordination), and it's likely that he or she can spot a toy across the room, focus on it, move to it, pick it up, and explore it in lots of ways.

What does a 5 month old baby understand? ›

At this age, babies are becoming aware of object permanence, which means they know that an object still exists even if it is hidden. 2 So, when you're playing peek-a-boo, they are starting to understand you're still there!

Can my 5 month old watch cartoons? ›

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 18 months have no exposure to screens (unless they're video chatting with a family member or friend). And even kids older than 1½ should watch or play with screen-based media in small, supervised doses.

What does an 8 month old understand? ›

Your 8-month-old may watch the path of something as it falls, and look for things they see you hide. Now that they understand object permanence, your baby knows that something exists even if they can't see it.

What does an 8 month old think? ›

An eight-month-old is curious about everything, but he also has a very short attention span and will move rapidly from one activity to the next. Two to three minutes is the most he'll spend with a single toy, and then he'll turn to something new.

Why does my 8 month old stare at his hands? ›

A baby who stares at his hands is simply gaining visual ability and the coordination to bring his hands together — and is getting ready for even bigger developmental tricks. At around 3 months, babies will bring their hands together intentionally and soon after will try to bat at objects or grasp things.

What is a baby's vision at 1 month? ›

Sight. A newborn baby's vision is very fuzzy, but within one month they are able to focus a bit better. They still can't see far - around 30cm - so when you smile at your baby, lean in close.

What can 1 week old See? ›

Week 1: Blurry View

During their first week, your baby can only see objects 8-12 inches in front of their face. This is about the distance from their face to yours while feeding. Babies generally hold their gaze for only a few seconds.

What can a baby see at 3 weeks? ›

What can a 3-week-old baby see? Your baby can still only see a few inches in front of them, and can mostly only make out black and white colors. 2 But they love looking at their parents' faces.

What can babies see at 2 weeks? ›

At two weeks old your baby can only see around 25cm away from them, so, if you want them to see your face, make sure you're within that distance. They are also really likely to be staring at you with a very intense look of concentration – this is your baby beginning their journey of communication.

What colors can babies see at 2 months? ›

Babies begin to perceive colors more and more between 2 and 4 months old. To start, they're able to tell the difference between shades of greens and reds. The exact timing for when your baby will see these colors is individual, so there's no set week or month when it happens for all babies universally.

Do babies see color? ›

Just after birth, a baby sees only in black and white, with shades of gray. As the months go by, they will slowly start to develop their color vision at around 4 months. So you're not imaging it when you see your baby fixate on your face and eyes, especially during a feeding, when your face is about a foot away.

How far can 1 month old see? ›

Baby's eyes still wander and may sometimes cross, which could make you wonder: How far can a one-month-old see? They can now see and focus on objects that are about 8 to 12 inches away. They like black and white patterns and those in other contrasting colors.

When do babies get their eye color? ›

Although you can't predict the exact age your baby's eye color will be permanent, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says most babies have the eye color that will last their lifetime by the time they're about 9 months old. However, some can take up to 3 years to settle into a permanent eye color.

How far can 5 month old see? ›

What Can My Baby See? Babies this age can see much farther away (several feet or more) than just a few months ago. They usually can focus without going cross-eyed and can tell the difference between different colors. Your baby is becoming much more aware of the environment.

At what age do babies smile? ›

​​​A baby's first social smile usually appears by the end of their second month. That's one reason why, as a pediatrician, seeing babies and their parents at the 2-month-old checkup is always a great pleasure.

Is watching TV good for babies? ›

Good evidence suggests that screen viewing before age 18 months has lasting negative effects on children's language development, reading skills, and short term memory. It also contributes to problems with sleep and attention.

How much can a 8 week old baby see? ›

Your baby can see objects about 45 cm away. Your baby will watch you move around now, following you with their eyes from side to side as well as up and down. Your 2-month-old is more alert to sound and will look at you when you talk. Your baby is also more vocal, gurgling and making single vowel sounds like 'a' or 'o'.

What colors can babies see at 4 months? ›

Newborns: Can see large shapes and faces, as well as bright colors.
  • By 3 to 4 months: Most babies can focus on a variety of smaller objects and tell the difference between colors (especially red and green).
  • By 4 months: A baby's eyes should be working together.
5 Jan 2012

How long does it take a baby's eyes to focus? ›

As babies grow, eyesight improves. By the end of 3 months, they can follow a moving object, are more interested in shapes and patterns, and can spot familiar faces, even at a distance.

Do babies see in black and white? ›

Newborns' color perception is limited to white, black and shades of grey, because their eyes and capacity for sight are not fully developed at birth. As a result, babies love to look at high-contrast black-and-white patterns, which stand out in their blurry worlds, attracting their attention and helping them focus.

What can babies see at 7 weeks? ›

But this week, they may try reaching out for objects within their gaze. Their vision is really coming on now – at birth they could only see 25cm in front of their face, but now it's around 60cm. All sorts of interesting things are now in view: your hair, earrings, scarf, grandma's glasses - as well as their toys.

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