It is important to recognise the different milestones in the development of your child, especially since it allows you to monitor any developmental delays that could be symptomatic of other more serious issues. Here are the different visual milestones that you should be familiar with.
Babies are born being able to see in black and white and to some extent, shades of grey. However, as they can only focus at a distance of about eight to twelve inches, most of this vision is blurred. Your newborn will first start learning to focus his eyes by looking at faces of those holding him, and then gradually moving out to bright objects of interest brought near. By eight to 12 weeks, many babies will follow moving objects with their eyes. Observe your child carefully and you’d notice that he would move his whole head to move his eyes, but this changes by two to four months – he will start moving his eyes independently, demonstrating the start of tracking and eye teaming development.
If you notice your child’s eyes crossing, don’t be alarmed! This is completely natural as he has not developed adequate neuromuscular control to use his eyes together yet. The crossing of the eyes should stop by 4 or 5 months when he has learnt to coordinate his eye movements. However, if you are seeing your infant’s eyes cross after this period, you might want to seek the advice of your family optometrist.
Infants (4 – 12 months)
Many changes will happen during this period. Your child’s visual system should have developed by now and he should be able to see the world in all its colourful glory. It is also during this period that they become quite skilful with their eye-hand coordination. The hands of your child become his most important tool as he reaches for almost everything he sees! This is also the time he will start to work on remembering the things around him.
Most infants will start crawling between the ages of 6 to 8 months, further developing eye-body coordination. Your child will be able to set his eyes on something and move towards it, learning to judge distances and set visual goals. This sudden freedom will allow for many new experiences and will also assist in the rapid development of visual perception skills as your child experiences his own body in relation to other objects and their differences in size, shape, and position.
By the time he is 8 to 12 month old, he should be able to judge distances very well. His developing eye, hand, body coordination will allow him to grasp and throw objects fairly accurately. Other developing perception skills such as visual memory and visual discrimination will further help your child make sense of his exciting new world. Additionally, the integration of his vision and fine motor coordination allows him to manipulate smaller objects, and he may begin feeding himself with finger foods. Once your child begins to walk, he will learn to use his eyes to direct and coordinate his body’s large muscle groups to guide his body movements.
Toddlers (1-3 years)
Simple games and exercises such as stacking building blocks, rolling a ball back and forth, colouring, drawing, cutting, or assembling lock-together toys all help improve the development of eye, hand, body coordination, eye teaming, and depth perception. Furthermore, reading to your toddler is strongly encouraged as this activity will help develop strong visualisation skills as most children will “picture” the story that is being told to them in their minds. In addition, your child should have his first eye exam by the age of 3, and sooner if vision problems run in the family. This is to ensure that the optometrist can check if vision is developing normally and detect any problems early.
What are some baby vision issues are you grappling with? Share them with us!