From day one, your precious newborn takes in the sights of the world. This is some of the earliest learning she does. What she sees provides important clues about the bright world in which she suddenly finds herself.
But just how well—and how much—can babies see?
At first, babies can't see very far, so the outside world is blurry. To picture how the world appears to a newborn, imagine yourself at a movie where everything on the screen is slightly out of focus.
You can see colors and shapes, but everything looks a bit fuzzy. In the first weeks of life, babies see things best from about a foot away, roughly the same distance their face is from mom's or dad's face when they're being cuddled.
For the first few months of life, babies can't see the middle of an object as well as they see the edges, and they have a hard time distinguishing details. What babies see best are sharp contrasts. So when your ardent admirer gazes up at you, the focus will be on your eyes, hairline, and mouth because there's a distinct difference between the object and the background.
You can increase baby's visual enjoyment by making sure there are plenty of faces around for her to stare at. Put pictures of faces on the wall near the changing table, in the nursery and in the backseat of the car. Baby will be interested each time you change these images, loving the excitement of variety. Also, look for toys with smiling faces—the toy's happy smile will remind baby of yours.
Stripes, polka dots, plaids, and checks also feed baby's hunger for interesting things to look at. Try wearing a 'loud' outfit, and you'll get quite a reaction out of your baby. Same goes for putting vibrant and colorful art on the wall above baby's crib, using a checkered tablecloth on the dinner table, or even painting a bit of a hallway just for baby's amusement. Not only will you help spark your infant's vision, but you'll redecorate, too!
Another simple way to stimulate vision is to attach a baby mirror in the crib. Baby won't know whose image is being reflected until later in the year, but will love to stare nonetheless. Watching objects move is another source of endless fascination. If you want to give your baby a thrill, visit an aquarium together and watch the brightly colored fish swimming in the tanks. Hang a mobile or lay baby under a floor gym to provide a visual feast.
By the time baby is 4 to 6 months old, distant objects become more intriguing. Now you can really have some fun! Everything takes on a new look, from the simplest toy to the decor of the nursery.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.