The Canadian Optometric Association recommends that children have a routine eye examination by 6 months of age. Babies don’t need to speak to be examined. Seeing an eye doctor is the only way to be sure your baby has healthy eyes and normal vision development.
Before birth, babies are already reactive to light and moving their eyes from side to side. At birth eyes focus to only 8 or 9 inches and when open their favorite sight is Mom’s eyes while being fed. Alternating feeding sides promotes equal vision development between the eyes. As vision matures they start to pay attention to the curves of mom’s face and mouth. Vision is very much involved with developing communication and social bonding.
Motor reflexes start baby learning to coordinate body movements with vision as primary guide. Reaching, rolling over, crawling, and creeping help develop vision and they likewise depend on the eyes to guide.
It’s thought that babies develop full color vision within the first few months of life, but they are particularly interested in high contrast black and white views. It’s a good idea to have a variety of lined and curved, high contrast objects and pictures around to stimulate baby’s visual perceptual skills.
At 6 months old, babies are usually sitting up and becoming more social. It’s a good time for their first eye exam. By now baby’s eyes should be working together to ensure proper ‘3D’ vision is developed. As well, eye movements, visual acuity, eye power and the health inside the eyes should be assessed to make sure your baby is off to a good start.
By 12 months, baby is moving more, further learning depth perception, and starting to inspect things with their eyes more and more. As visual attention expands outward, they gain confidence in crossing further distances to explore. They start to think about categorizing so empty boxes, containers, and pots and pans make great toys. Some may be ready for shape puzzles.
Vision development continues as your child’s needs to explore and learn continue. Some vision problems run in families so to make sure your baby reaches their potential, lots of active play is encouraged. Maintaining eye contact while speaking, and providing a variety of ‘seeing’ experiences are among the best ways to promote great vision.
Failure to adequately address vision problems can result in serious problems that have lifelong effects. The majority of vision problems are not noticeable by parents, so please have your baby checked.