As a new parent you may wonder about your child’s vision. What exactly can she see? Is her vision as good as mine? What toys will she be most interested in? A baby’s vision goes through many changes after birth and continues to develop until about seven years of age.
At birth, your baby is sensitive to bright light, but after about two weeks, her pupils enlarge so she can see a range of light and dark shades. During the early weeks, you will find that she will be most attracted to black and white pictures and simple face shapes. Her colour vision will mature in the coming months.
At four to six weeks old, your baby:
- can focus on objects up to three feet away
- can stare at what’s around her when awake
- can briefly look at objects or bright lights
- can blink in response to light
- can move her head and eyes together when looking at an object
- is sensitive to brightness or boldness and high contrast colours like black and white or yellow and black
- will spend more time looking at high contrast colours than at lighter ones
By three months, your baby’s eyes are able to look briefly from one object to another. Her eyes are also able to follow a moving object or person. This is known as tracking. If your baby’s eyes are not working together to focus on and track objects by three months, talk to your healthcare provider.
At three months old, your baby:
- can stare at her caregiver’s face
- makes eye contact
- begins to look at her hands
- can “swat” at moving objects or toys which are close by because she now has the hand arm control to do so
- loves to look at the human face and will become more responsive to the facial expressions you make
By about four months, your baby can notice the differences between all the colours. By six months, your child’s eyes will move to inspect her surroundings and she will look for sounds that she hears. She’ll be able to look at more distant objects and will smile or laugh in response to things she sees.
The Ontario Association of Optometrists recommends children have their first eye exam at 6 months of age.
At one year of age, you will notice that her eyes will turn inward as objects are brought closer to her nose. She will look for a dropped toy and will spend longer periods of time watching activities around her. She’ll also visually inspect objects and people and will move toward her favourite toy.
By two years old she’ll reach for and grasp objects that she sees. She will look for and point to pictures in a book as well as to objects and people.
What if my child does not meet these milestones?
If your child does not seem to be meeting any one of the milestones above, talk to your healthcare provider.
You should see someone right away if you notice that your baby:
- does not make eye contact with you by three months of age
- does not watch or follow an object with her eyes by three months
- has one eye that drifts when she looks at objects
- tilts or turns her head when looking at objects
- squints, closing or covering one eye when looking at objects
- has difficulty with coordinated eye movements
- tears a lot when she’s not crying
- blinks, squints, rubs or touches her eyes a lot
- avoids bright lights
- has a hazy or white appearance inside her pupil
- has frequent “wiggling”, “drifting” or “jerky” eye movements
- has eyes that turn out or cross by three months
- has swollen, encrusted or drooping eyelids
- has bumps, sores or styes on or around eyelids
Visual development continues throughout early and mid-childhood. Your child won’t generally complain about how she sees and usually won’t know that she has a visual problem. In Ontario, eye exams for all children 19 years old and under are covered by OHIP.
If you have any questions about your child’s vision, speak to your healthcare provider. If your child is suspected of being blind or having low vision, visit Toronto Public Health’s Blind-Low Vision Early Intervention Program.