How Babies Develop Vision

Four games to help your baby see the world

By Tara Heath

 Our kids mean the world to us and spending time with them can be rewarding, educational and entertaining all at once. When it comes to their vision, we should always be on the lookout for potential problems, like myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness). During the first year of life, playtime is a good time to help babies develop the best vision possible.

Beyond peek-a-boo, here are four games and activities that can help a baby improve his eyesight and achieve better hand-eye coordination skills along the way.

#1 An Early Start

Although an infant’s eyes usually don’t settle and begin to track objects until she is three to six months of age, it’s never too soon to start the process. Talk quietly to your baby. It’s likely she will turn her head in your direction. Although this is a reflex response, she’ll begin respond to your voice and look for you when you’re nearby.

According to research, babies learn a great deal from studying faces, and newborns can differentiate between a stranger’s face and that of their parent. To help with this, continue talking to your infant and as you do, move slowly from side to side. Again, depending upon your baby’s age, he should start tracking your movements with his eyes.

#2 Mirror, Mirror

All babies like to look at themselves in mirrors, but what do they really see besides themselves? Once an infant starts paying more attention to the mirror and perhaps reaching out to touch it, alter what they see. For example, try putting a spot of lipstick on her forehead or the tip of her nose and watch to see if she touches the mirror or herself.

Not only will this help your baby find differences in the image itself, soon he’ll figure out that he is seeing a reflection. This not only helps him visually, it also aids him with cognitive development and coordination.

#3 Magic!

At about six months, babies become tantalized by objects held in front of their faces. These might be a bunch of jangling keys or a shiny, clattering baby toy. Your baby will reach for the object and, once grasped, will probably put it in her mouth. Instead, and to boost your child’s visual abilities and brain power, hide the object until a blanket after you show it to her.

If your baby is six or seven months old, he will accept that the object has simply vanished. Around 10 months of age, he will begin to figure out how to find the missing item. This is what psychologists refer to as “object performance,” which means the child knows the object still exists even though it has disappeared from immediate sight.

#4 Increase Stimuli

Although this last activity practically goes without saying, be sure your baby has plenty of visual stimulation. Things like brightly colored mobiles and other hanging objects above cribs, brightly colored rattles and other age-appropriate toys all stimulate your child in many ways.

The American Optometric Association recommends getting these types of toys for children between the ages of six months and one year:

  • Six Months: Stuffed animals and floating bath toys
  • Nine Months: Sturdy board books, stacking toys and other items that can easily be assembled
  • One Year: Brightly colored balls, riding toys and rocking animals or chairs

Before you know it, your child will be running around and playing with “big kid” toys. Talk, read and sing to her while you interact visually. Make the most of this important and irreplaceable developmental stage in your youngster’s life.


Tara Heath is a health professional and freelance writer who concentrates on health and lifestyle issues. She lives in Burbank, California, with her husband and two young daughters.