Your baby has a whole lifetime to see and learn. But, did you know your baby also has to learn to see? As a parent, there are many things that you can do to help your baby’s vision develop. First, proper prenatal care and nutrition can help your baby’s eyes develop even before birth. At birth, your baby’s eyes should be examined for signs of congenital eye problems. These are rare, but early diagnosis and treatment are important to your child’s development.
At about age six months, you should take your baby to an eye doctor for his or her first thorough eye examination. Things that an eye doctor will test for include excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism and eye movement ability as well as eye health problems. These problems are not common, but it is important to identify children who have them at this stage. Vision development and eye health problems can be more easily corrected if treatment is begun early.
Unless you notice a need, or your doctor advises you otherwise, your child’s next examination should be around age three, and then again before he or she enters school.
Between birth and age three, when many of your baby’s vision skills will develop, there are ways that you can help.
First Four Months
Your baby should begin to follow moving objects with his or her eyes and reach for things, first by chance and later more accurately, as hand-eye coordination and depth perception begin to develop:
- Use a nightlight or other dim lamp in your baby’s room
- Change the crib’s position frequently and your child’s position in it
- Keep reach-and-touch toys within your baby’s focus, about eight to 12 inches
- Talk to your baby as you walk around the room
- Alternate right and left sides with each feeding
- Hang a mobile above and outside the crib.
Four to Eight Months
Your baby should begin to turn from side to side and use his or her arms and legs. Eye movement and eye/body coordination skills should develop further and both eyes should focus equally.
- Enable your baby to explore different shapes and textures with his or her fingers
- Give your baby the freedom to crawl and explore
- Hang objects across the crib
- Play “patty cake” and “peek-a-boo” with your baby.
Eight to Twelve Months
Your baby should be mobile, crawling and pulling himself or herself up. He or she will begin to use both eyes together and judge distances and grasp and throw objects with greater precision. To support development:
- Don’t encourage early walking – crawling is important in developing eye-hand-foot-body coordination
- Give your baby stacking and take-apart toys
- Provide objects your baby can touch, hold and see at the same time.
One to two years
Your child’s eye-hand coordination and depth perception will continue to develop and he or she will begin to understand abstract terms. Things you can do:
- Encourage walking
- Provide building blocks, simple puzzles and balls
- Provide opportunities to climb and explore indoors and out.
- There are many other affectionate and loving ways in which you can aid your baby’s vision development. Use your creativity and imagination. Ask your eye doctor to suggest other specific activities.