At what age do babies start to see?

22nd July 2020

Babies have a fairly limited visual acuity at birth. They can see but things are blurry and in black and white. It may take up to a year before their vision is equivalent to that of an adult.

Babies are born with their eyes almost fully developed, but they do not see clearly until their second year. This can take a little longer for premature babies.

Babies can see from birth; however, initially their vision is very limited because the retina is not completely developed. Sight is the least developed of the senses at birth:

  • When babies are born, they only see blurry outlines. They can barely distinguish between light and dark, only perceiving changes in intensity, and will turn their heads away if the focus is too intense and irritating. They cannot see things that are further than 25 cm away and only see in black, white and grey.
  • At one month they start to stare for short periods within a limited radius, although still in a blurry black and white. They cannot control their eye muscles, which sometimes causes them to go cross-eyed.
  • Between two and three months they start to identify some very bright primary colours but cannot distinguish between colours of a similar hue. The images are no longer blurry at a greater distance. They can stare and follow slow moving objects within a 180° range.
  • At five months they can see at any distance, although distant objects remain somewhat blurry. They can distinguish between all highly contrasted primary colours and start to recognise familiar faces, usually their mother and father.
  • From six months, a baby's sight is similar to that of an adult. They start to distinguish faces other than their parents', acquire depth perception, distinguish all the primary colours and some secondary colours and look for objects that have moved out of their field of vision, such as a toy they have dropped.
  • Children's vision is fully developed at 12 months and they see like adults. They can distinguish objects of any size and any colour. They now only need to see part of an object to recognise it, they can focus at any distance and depth and differentiate between various hues of the same colour.

Stimulating babies' sight

Bright, shiny colours attract the attention of babies more than anything else. They learn from outside stimuli, so we can help them develop their sight.

It is important that they see natural as well as artificial light. It is also best to place their cot or playpen in places with a good range of vision rather than in corners.

They like shiny, bright-coloured objects best, which they can see move. Show them colourful toys so they can learn to follow the movement or stare.

Toys in strong, highly contrasted colours stimulate them most. These toys should be relatively large in the early months so the baby can see them better.

They also like looking at faces, so we should talk or sing to them while looking directly at them. Little by little they will start to recognise the people they see most regularly.

It is important to give them a break from moving objects or learning to stare, because they can become very tired.

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