From the moment a child is born he/she has everything needed in order to see. Seeing properly is just a matter of learning how. From birth a child does not see in color. Rather, a child is only able to see in black and white, and shades of gray. The ability to see in color will not develop until four months of age. A baby can also only focus on objects within eight to twelve inches. From here, a baby slowly begins to learn to focus his/her vision further out. Slowly, he/she will begin focusing on faces and then eventually move out to objects of interest, such as brightly colored toys. By eight to twelve weeks, a baby should be able to start following people or objects with his/her eyes. “By four months your child should be reaching for objects as he/she works on two more very important parts of vision development, depth perception and hand-eye coordination.” adds Dr. Brown.
Dr. Brown relates, “Many parents come to me concerned that their two or three month old’s eyes seem not to be coordinated, and I advise them that this is perfectly normal. Usually it takes until the fourth or fifth month before your baby begins to master the coordination of his/her eyes.” By the end of the fifth month your baby should have learned to use both eyes together to interpret the world around him/her. This facilitates binocular fusion, the process by which the brain takes the two slightly different images sent to it by each eye and translates them into one unified, interpreted image. Depth perception is also made possible as your child becomes better at using both eyes in unison. By six months, your baby’s vision should be fully developed. From here, your child will continue to fine tune depth perception and spatial skills to more easily navigate and interact with the world as he/she grows.
Between six and twelve months, your baby will begin to crawl and then, eventually, walk. These require a new set of skills coordinated by the eyes to interact with the world successfully. Your baby will begin to be able to judge distance quite accurately, which is important to keep from bumping into things as they navigate their world. Perception skills such as visual memory and visual discrimination help your baby make sense of the world as well.
Throughout your child’s preschool years, eyesight will continue to develop. For toddlers it is very important to continue development of hand-eye and hand-body coordination, eye teaming, and depth perception. “Stacking blocks, rolling a ball, coloring and drawing are great examples of how to interact with your toddler in a way that will help improve these important skills in a fun and constructive way,” advises Dr. Brown. By the time your child is ready to enter school, he/she should have all the visual ability required for proper learning.
It is important to have regular comprehensive eye exams at all stages of development. This is to be sure that your child’s vision is developing as it should and to diagnose any eye conditions that may be effecting your child. There are many eye conditions, such as strabismus and amblyopia that can be corrected easily if caught early, but can do irreversible damage that will effect a child into adulthood if left undiagnosed and untreated for too long. It is also important to be sure that your child enjoys good eyesight for learning in school. An eye doctor will check whether your child needs vision correction for nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism and will check for basic skills that are important for your child’s success in the classroom, such as eye movement skills, peripheral awareness and depth perception.