Newborn babies’ vision is immature and they need to learn to focus their eyes. This skill develops relatively quickly and by the age of around 4 months...

Baby development - brain and vision.

Newborn babies’ vision is immature and they need to learn to focus their eyes. This skill develops relatively quickly and by the age of around 4 months, babies’ vision is almost fully matured.

However, stimulating visual development from birth helps more then just eyesight, it helps whole brain development too. Newborns have most visual clarity for objects approximately 15cm away (about the distance of a mother’s face when breastfeeding). They can recognize their mother’s face from very early on and show an innate preference for face-shaped arrangement of objects.

As babies’ vision matures during the first few months of life, babies focus on sharp edges between contrasting colours as these require the least amount of visual acuity. Anything that is the subject of babies’ visual attention will be stimulating nerve cells and be having an impact on how a baby makes sense of the world.

Over 80% of information that is processed by the brain is visual and babies who receive visual stimulation from an early age make more neural connections and are better able to learn new things.

Repeated exposure to an object/shape, creates memories that can be retrieved through strongly formed pathways. This learning and retrieving of information helps brain cognitions and providing children with a stimulating environment will increase neuronal connections that will increase brain development. Tracking moving objects develops quickly - younger babies need the objects to be bigger and closer to them, and ideally in colours that contrast with the background. Showing very young babies slow-moving objects moving along a predictable, smooth path is a good way to help babies develop their visual tracking skills and as they get older, make the movements jerkier and the objects smaller to refine their skill.

As babies’ eyesight improves and they are able to distinguish increasingly detailed stimuli, they become fascinated by repeated patterns. The repetition of a pattern is thought to help babies’ develop memory and prediction (they learn to ‘expect’ to see something) so patterned stimuli are beneficial for children after the first few weeks of life. After the first few months of life, once babies’ vision is fully matured, their eyesight is crucial for helping them to develop other skills.

For example, the pincer grip is an important motor skill and babies use their vision to see small objects (e.g. raisins) and their hand-eye coordination to guide their hand to the precise place where their finger and thumb can be used to pick up an object.

Summary: Visual stimulation and visual cues, such as faces or repeated patterns will increase brain development from an early age.

Article written in consultation with a Leading Child Psychologist, Dr. Amanda Gummer.