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How does a newborn’s vision develop?

a newborn looking at a sight test chart with blurry vision

The process of vision development starts in the womb. The fetus starts out with a limited number of cells in the retina and optic nerve, and as time goes on, these cells multiply exponentially. A baby’s eyesight is not quite comparable to an adult’s by birth.

The retina

The retina is the layer of tissue at the back of the eye that converts images into electrical signals for transmission to the brain. In order for a baby to see properly, its retina must be developed enough so that it can sense light and distinguish shapes from one another. The lens inside your eye focuses those shapes onto your retina so they can be seen clearly by your brain.

eye retina of a baby

The optic nerve is made up of many fibres that transmit information from your eyes to your brain. It’s responsible for telling you what you’re seeing – whether it’s a person, animal or object – and where it is in relation to other objects around it.

The eyesight development

The baby’s vision develops gradually and relies on the eye muscles to coordinate. A baby’s eyesight is usually not fully developed until 12 months old, but it can take up to 18 months for the vision to reach its full potential.

When a baby is born, it can only see black and white. It has to learn how to see colours, shapes and details. They learn through high-contrast black-and-white images during the first couple of months. After a while, they start to learn, not only how to see but also to develop visual and physical abilities. Their development starts with their eyesight.

In the first few months of life, babies are nearsighted because their eyes are still developing. They have trouble seeing objects that are far away or close up.

Babies need to be exposed to different types of light in order for their eyesight to develop properly.


Babies are born with all the neurones they need throughout their life, but the connection between them starts directly after birth. This connection (of the Sensory neurones) enables your baby to see, hear and feel. On the other hand, the eyes begin to develop by first, adjusting to the light, and then learning how to see. When babies first open their eyes their vision will be blurry and can only see objects held 30 cm away from their faces. Research shows that babies subjected to visual and brain stimulation have better concentration and logical thinking skills.

Newborns’ vision at months 1-2

Your baby’s vision is getting better and the focus is progressing. She/he can now focus with both eyes and try to follow objects as they move. The brain-eye coordination is gradually expanding and the practice has begun to move hands and legs accordingly. They will enjoy looking at your face, so keep that smile shining! you might notice your baby is starting to move her/his hands, this is a step forward towards eye-hand coordination.

Here you can see how do babies see life in the first year after birth. (Virtual demonstration)

“sensolern – learning with the senses” has carefully developed a full set of cognitive contrast images for gently stimulating training baby’s eyes and brain from 0 to 3 months.

sensolern flashcards -product-0-3 cover and cards
sensolern flashcards -product-0-3 cover and cards

Babies’ vision at months 3-4

It is clear that your baby now has better eye-brain-body coordination. She/he can now concentrate on objects with bold and high contrast colours follow the 3-6 months visual stimulation card (link) and move their head when you move it vertically or horizontally. It is also highly beneficial for muscle tone during tummy play time. Eye-hand coordination is also developing and your baby is trying to grasp objects, this also benefits the understanding of depth and distance in the upcoming stage. 

sensolern flashcards -product-3-6 cover and cards
sensolern flashcards -product-3-6 cover and cards

Babies’ vision at months 5-6

In your baby’s eyes, the world is colourful now. She/he can see farther and can almost understand the depth. Tracking moving objects, faster eye-hand coordination and starting to crawl are the highlights of this phase. It is also the beginning of speech learning, you might be noticed how your baby watches your mouth as you speak and enjoys listening. So, pick one of the 12 cards (6-9 cards link) start a story of your own and create a beautiful memory for both of you. 

sensolern flashcards -product-2 6-9
sensolern flashcards -product-2 6-9

Babies’ vision at months 7-8

On your mark, get set, and go! Your baby can now estimate the distance to where a small object on the floor is and go to it, as a parent I suggest keeping your running shoes on. Place contrast cards at different distances and let your child crawl to pick one and explain the image and pattern to her/him to encourage concentration, speech and interaction. This will enrich cognitive learning ability and stimulate vision and brain development. 

Babies’ vision at months 9-10

With a better depth perception, your baby will start to look for things to hold on to, in order to stand up on two feet. Vision is now almost like adults and they can see the smallest speck on the floor and try to pick it up using their thumb and forefinger. This is an important step in Eye-finger coordination. The brain is working hard to develop motor skills and visual memory. So it is only right to display a visual stimulation card and try to hide it and show it again to help improve their memory. 

sensolern flashcards -product-9-12 cover and cards
sensolern flashcards -product-9-12 cover and cards

Babies’ vision at months 11-12

Breathe and get ready to run any minute now. Many babies would be still crawling while others will start to walk, either way, they have better distance judgment and, oh yes, much faster than you think!!

Your baby can recognise faces now and will be interested in everything you could be looking at or doing. Speech development starts to show its results now, your baby could be attempting to say a word or two. Point at a picture or an object and call its name out. She/he will not only be able to pick up things, but also throw things around with more accuracy than before. 

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