What should you know about your child’s vision

Did you know that the vision of infants develops from birth and it affects their development in many ways.

Infant development is not linear, but cyclic. Children move forward and backward while reorganizing and achieving higher developmental levels. A child rehearses this growth process throughout life.

Infants are born without color vision and should develop it by the age of six months.

baby and mother

Infant’s eyes are generally observed as straight after birth. If you observe an eye turn, it is important to have this evaluated as soon as possible. The cause, which is frequently motor or sensory, can be a manifestation of an underlying disease process. Early identification and treatment of such conditions may prevent permanent vision loss.

Infants can see about 20/400 after birth and can see 20/40 by the age of one. An awareness of self (orientation) must develop before objects can accurately be found (localization) in their world.

Infants and toddlers are usually farsighted. Interferences in a child’s motor development can influence development of visual skills and the process of becoming less farsighted.

Infants can learn to see their world through a process in which they look, touch and explore. Simple household items like pots and pans are a gold mine for exploration and learning.

Vision problems are one of the leading causes of handicapping conditions in children, most of which can be detected, prevented or treated during infant years.

Milestones of Infant Visual Development

Your infant should be able to…

  • Momentarily follow an object with eyes or head by 5 weeks.
  • Bring both hands together by 8 weeks.
  • Hold and sustain direct eye contact with you by 3 months.
  • Turn both eyes together and locate near objects by 4 months.
  • Make the sounds p, b, t, d, and m by 5 months.
  • Roll over independently by 7 months.
  • Sit without support by 8 months.
  • Creep and crawl by 9 months.


When Should You Seek Professional Help?

A “well baby” comprehensive vision examination should take place at or before 6 months of age. Early detection is critical in preventing a treating vision conditions that can have lifelong effects.

Professional help should be sought sooner if you notice delays in development, if your infant’s eyes turn outward or inward (lasting more than a few seconds), or if you note excessive rubbing of the eyes. These are indicators of abnormal vision development and should be evaluated by a developmental optometrist as soon as possible.

Visual Guidance Recommendations


Talk and interact at any chance. This provides time for learning, communication, and eye contact. Make sure infants have “tummy time” each day. This helps to develop neck and back muscles, which lead to the proper development of their visual system.

1 Month

Hold and feed infants from alternating sides. This encourages adequate visual development of both eyes.

Place infants in their crib facing different directions as well as change the location of the crib so they can see the world from many different viewpoints.

2 Months

Allow infants to explore with their hands. This provides many different stimuli including texture, size, weight and form. These experiences provide them with a foundation upon which they build their knowledge.

4 Months

Allow infants to hold their bottle and have clean, smooth objects available so they can explore with their mouth. This allows the infant to reinforce learning through multiple sensory modalities.

6 Months

Play peek-a-boo to develop memory and recall. Tie bells on their booties so they can learn about their body through sound and movement patterns.

What a Comprehensive Infant Visual Evaluation Includes

  • Developmental Patient History
  • Visual Acuity Assessmen
  • Refractive Analysis (farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism
  • Visual Motor Development
  • Eye Movements
  • Eye Focusing
  • Eye Teaming
  • Eye-Hand integration
  • Asessment of Eye-Health

Recommendations May Include

  • Visual Guidance Activities
  • Developmental Vision Therapy
  • Prescribing of Lenses for Development
  • Referrals for Further Assessment and/or Treatment by Other Disciplines.

Why Should You Seek Help From a Developmental Optometrist?

Members of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, an organization of optometrists with special interests in infant visual development and the guidance of visual conditions found in infants, are trained to use the latest technology and techniques to provide a thorough examination of your child even if they can’t communicate or you think they may be uncooperative.

For Further Information on Infant Visual Development

Books –available at libraries and bookstores

Amazing Babies –Beverly Stokes- Move Alive Media

Right From Birth: Building Your Child’s Foundation for Life –Craig and Sharon Ramey –Goddard Press

125 Brain Games for Babies –Jackie Sillberg –Consortium Book Sales

Enhance Your Infant’s Development –Etta Rowley –Optometric Extension Program

Games to Play with Babies –Jackie Sillberg – Gryphon House

The Out of Sync Child –Carolyn Stock-Kranowitz –Perigee

Smart Moves –Carla Hannaford –Great Ocean Publications