THE WORLD THROUGH MY CHILD’S EYES
It would be pretty darn amazing to know what my baby sees and how they experience this crazy world around them, right?
It makes me think of the movie, Inside Out – how incredibly lucky those emotions were to see Riley’s world from baby to teenager! If you haven’t seen this movie yet, brace yourself, because you’ll be watching it very soon! Over and over and over again! The amazing truth about children is that they’re not born seeing like we do. Just like your baby will reach certain milestones at certain times of their development - such as rolling over, crawling, walking and talking – their eye development goes through various milestones before it reaches maturity! Now that’s truly amazing!
To enable you to recognise when there is a possible problem with your child’s vision, we’ll be discussing these various stages of growth, in the sections below.
As children grow, so does their ability to see objects clearly at varying distances and follow them when they move. Babies show rapid development in the first few months of life in nearly all visual functions and capacities.
For example, at birth, the distance on which a baby tries to focus is about 20 to 25cm – yes about the same distance from your baby’s face to yours! But, they cannot tell the difference between two different objects very easily and they can’t yet move their eyes from one target to another.
Therefore, don’t get despondent when you’re oohing and aahing and your baby only responds by looking anywhere, but at you! It is estimated that a newborn baby’s vision is about 10 to 30 times lower than that of an adult which means things are very, very blurry!
By 6-12 weeks, your baby’s vision develops in leaps and bounds. They’ll be able to focus and follow the light from a torch much more accurately. At this stage, they can visualise their parent’s facial expressions and smile in response! This is also the stage, when their depth perception starts to develop.
For the first 8 weeks of life, their eyes may appear to look in different directions or seem to look around the room aimlessly. This is not a cause for concern, unless it occurs frequently and persists beyond 2 to 3 months.
Another fact, at this stage, is that their colour vision is not as clear as that of an adult’s, yet.
At last, by 2 months, the baby can now see their parents’ faces clearly, since they can now focus well on objects within 20 to 25cm distance. The two eyes now work together as a “team” so they can move their focus easily from one object to another. Your baby will also close their eyes if objects are suddenly placed in front of them. This is usually a very emotional time for any mum. That moment when your baby’s eyes lock on yours! Nothing can describe that feeling of wonder.
By 3 months, babies should now follow slow moving objects with ease. If the parent holds a toy at around 25 cm from their child and then slowly moves the toy towards their child’s nose, they will notice that their child’s eyes slowly turn in towards the nose. This means that the child can now “converge” (their eyes turn inwards together).
This ensures that the image of the toy the parent is holding will be placed at the same place at the back of each eye. This is vital for the development of 3-dimensional vision or depth perception. Babies at this age should start reaching for objects as their hand-eye-coordination continues to develop. Playtime with your baby becomes an absolute delight. Encouraging sensory activities, like peek-a-boo, grasp-and-hold and tummy time is a great way to aid development but also enhance bonding.
Kindly note, a point of concern, at 3 months, is that if a baby doesn’t like having one of their eyes “covered”, an ophthalmologist’s advice should be sought! By six months, the eyes should be working together as a very efficient team. This is the stage where depth perception is established. This means that the baby can now tell how far away an object is from him or herself, relative to another object. That means that they can see in 3-dimensions. Their vision has now improved remarkably; in fact it has almost doubled in development.
Their ability to see colour should also now be fully developed. At 8 months, when a child should start to crawl, this motor skill further helps to integrate the baby’s eye-hand-foot coordination. By 3 to 31/2years of age, children can match a picture shown to them with an identical image on a card in front of them. At this stage a child’s vision should be equal to that of an adult’s. Any parent enjoys seeing their baby respond to them pulling funny faces, smiling and realising an object has been omitted and suddenly reappears! This is the world in which children learn through their vision!
Unfortunately, vision problems do start at an early age. It’s always a great idea, if you notice anything unusual during your child’s vision development, to see an ophthalmologist. The earlier the problem is screened, examined, diagnosed, and/or treated, the earlier it can be corrected. Otherwise, enjoy your child’s explorations and giggles as the world around them unfolds from a grand mystery into a beautiful visual paradise of possibility.