Your Child’s Vision Development

A child’s vision begins to develop at birth. Babies at birth have all the eye structures necessary for vision. However some of these structures need further development and maturation for normal vision. Babies spend much of their early weeks and months of life learning how to see. They develop visual skills such as focusing (accommodation), teaming their eye movements (motor fusion and binocular vision), recognizing depth (stereopsis), developing eye-hand coordination, and making spatial judgments. As babies grow, more complex skills, such as visual perception and visual motor integration, develop to meet their growing need.

Birth to Four Months

At birth, babies see in black and white and shades of gray. At this age most of the vision is blurred as the focusing system of the eyes is not well developed. They begin to learn to focus their eyes by looking at faces and then gradually moving out to bright objects of interest brought near them. Newborns should be able to momentarily hold their gaze on an object for a few seconds.

At 8-12 weeks they should start to follow people and moving objects with their eyes. Initially they move their head to track objects of interest but soon they will be able to move their eyes independently with much less head movement. At this stage, newborns have not learned to use their eyes together and occasionally crossing them giving an appearance of a squint. This appearance of squint normally resolves by about 4-5 months as they learn to coordinate their eye movements together. If by this age, there is still an appearance of a squint, it could indicate a problem and parents should seek medical advice.

By four months, babies start to reach for objects and develop eye-hand coordination.  By now the babies’ visual systems have developed the ability to see in full color, and they’re exposed to an exciting colourful world!

Four to Six Months

During this time, babies become quite skillful with their eye-hand coordination and are able grasp at objects freely and will reach for almost everything they see. Babies also learn to fuse the images coming from both their right and left eye, merging them into one resulting in full binocular vision with depth perception (3D vision). Spatial and dimensional awareness continue to improve as babies learn to aim accurately when reaching for objects of interest. Their normal visual acuities (sharpness of vision) have developed to 6/6 or 20/20 by six months of age.

Six to 12 Months

Most babies start crawling during this time, further developing eye-body coordination. They learn to judge distances, set visual targets, seeing something and moving to get them. There is rapid development of visual perception skills as babies experience their own bodies in relation to other objects and notice differences in colour, size, shape, and position.

The integration of their vision and motor coordination allows babies to play with small toys and put food (or toys!) into their mouths. They also develop perception skills such as visual memory and visual discrimination. Once they start walking, their will use their eyes to direct and coordinate their movements.

Toddlers and Preschool Children

Throughout their preschool years, children’s vision continues to develop with further maturation of the eyes and brain. If there is disruption to the quality of vision at this age, children may develop amblyopia (lazy eye). Activities such as stacking building blocks, rolling a ball, drawing and colouring are important in the further development of eye/ hand / body coordination and depth perception. Also, reading to young children is important as this help them develop visualization skills as they “picture”

School-Aged Children

By 7 years old, children’s vision is almost fully developed. As children continue to grow, they may develop refractive error such as myopia (short sighted) and astigmatism. Children don’t often realize that their eyes are blurred or under too much strain, and they rarely report vision problems. It is therefore important for children to have a complete eye examination before starting school.