It’s believed that babies can see color around 5 months old. This is when babies full color vision is thought to develop. A baby is born with poor eyesight, but as they grow and develop, so does their vision.

Within the first few months, babies start to notice light and dark as well as shapes and patterns. Next, their eyes start to develop and work together, and their visual coordination gets better. Between about 5 and 8 months, babies will start to recognize people and objects, and develop depth perception.

Your baby’s eye color takes several months to set. Hand-eye coordination and the ability to reach for and grasp objects come next.

Your baby’s eyes will grow and develop a lot throughout the first year of their life. Keeping track of visual milestones, getting regular checkups, and providing consistent visual stimulation can help to ensure health and wellness.

Babies & Color Vision

baby with ptosisBabies can tell the difference between light and dark while they are still in the womb.

When they are first born, babies are extremely sensitive to light. Newborns can see contrast between black and white shapes. The first primary color they are able to distinguish is red. This happens in the first few weeks of life.

Babies can start to notice differences in shades of colors, particularly between red and green, between 3 and 4 months old. Actual color vision and the ability to see color develop when a baby is around 5 months old. Babies do not have as clear or sensitive color vision as adults at this age, but they should be able to notice the differences and see colors.

It is difficult to be sure if your baby can see and distinguish colors until they are old enough to communicate. It is often not clear if color vision is developing normally until they are much older.

Babies Eyes at Birth & the First Few Months

When babies are first born, they can’t see very well, and they are extremely sensitive to light. Babies will often blink when bright light hits their eyes. Their pupils are very small, which doesn’t allow for much light to get in.

Babies’ eyes do not work together yet, and they may often appear unfocused or cross-eyed. Central vision is still developing. However, babies can often see things in their peripheral vision and things that are farther away. By around 1 month old, babies tear production starts to work.

In the first few weeks, babies’ retinas develop more. This widens their pupils, allowing more light in, and it gives them the ability to see patterns of light and dark. They will often be drawn to big shapes and bright colors as well as to contrast and geometric patterns.

By 1 month old, babies can focus on objects or faces about 8 to 10 inches away.

Tracking Objects & Focusing

Visual coordination continues to improve in the first few months of life. By about 2 months of age, babies can typically follow and track a moving object.

By 3 months old, their eyes should be working together. Babies should be able to focus on objects better and even potentially have enough coordination to bat at them.

Between 2 and 3 months of age, a baby may:

  • Look at their own hands.
  • Follow objects, light, and faces with their eyes.
  • Start to see an object as one thing.
  • Recognize faces and color hues at this point, but vision is still blurry.

Depth Perception & Recognition

Along with the development of color vision, babies’ depth perception starts to become more fine-tuned around 5 months old. They will be able to see further away and start to see the world in three dimensions. They can begin to recognize faces, potentially remember objects they have seen, and see things outside a window.

Between about 5 and 7 months, babies will prefer certain colors, touch images of themselves in the mirror, and turn their heads to see or follow an object or person.

Babies’ vision at this point is around 20/100. It will continue to improve over the following months and years.

Changing Eye Color

Your baby is likely born with light blue, gray, or brown eyes that can develop and change up until their first birthday.

Babies are born with limited melanin in the iris, which is what is responsible for the color. Light at birth starts to stimulate melanin production, and final eye color is determined by genetics.

Typically, eye color is set between 3 and 6 months old, but the shades can still change subtly up until 3 years old.

Development of Hand-Eye Coordination & Reaching for Objects

The connection between movement, memory, and the eyes continues to form and develop between about 8 and12 months. Babies will be able to see and track things that are moving faster and stare at small objects.

Hand-eye coordination improves as babies can reach for objects and successfully grasp them between their finger and thumb at this point. Babies are starting to crawl, pull up on objects, and walk between 6 and 12 months. Babies are able to accurately judge distances and throw a ball fairly well with precision by 9 to 12 months.

Stimulating & Encouraging Healthy Eye Development

The best thing you can do for your baby to help with normal eye development is to keep up with regular checkups and talk to your doctor about any concerns. Awareness of the vision milestones can help you catch any potential problems.

If there is a family history of or risk factors for ocular issues, be sure to let your child’s doctor know. Your pediatrician may recommend additional screening and a visit to a licensed eye doctor.

Keep your baby visually stimulated, talk to them often, and show them the world around them. Babies prefer to look at faces and often like to look at themselves in the mirror. Hanging a mobile and engaging in activities that encourage hand-eye coordination can further engage and stimulate vision and eye development.

Show your baby a variety of objects to keep them interested and learning. The first year is crucial to a baby’s eye development. Continual stimulation can encourage memory, curiosity, nervous system development, attention span, and enhance visual acuity. Talk to your doctor about age-appropriate activities to promote healthy eye development and growth.

References

Your Baby’s Eye Development. (2020). Bausch & Lomb.

How Your Baby Sees the World. (January 2019). What to Expect.

Infant Eyes: A Window on Cognitive Development. (January 2013). Infancy.

Current Understanding of What Infants See. (October 2014). Current Ophthalmology Reports.

Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age. American Optometric Association (AOA).

When Do Babies See Color? (December 2019). Today.

Vision Development: Newborn to 12 Months. (July 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

Age-Appropriate Vision Milestones. (2020). Stanford Children’s Health.

Baby’s Eye Color. (May 2019). What to Expect.

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