How Babies Discover the World Through Visual Perception

How Babies Discover the World Through Visual Perception

Posted by Dan Gollinger on Apr 7th 2021

When they are first born, babies can see, but only very vague and blurry images. Sight is one of the senses that develops slowly over time. They can recognize faces and contrasts, but until babies are one month old, they are only able to follow an object with their eyes. In babies, this process requires a high level of muscle strength and coordination in the eye.

Babies start to perceive color in the second and third months of their lives. First, they are capable of distinguishing color tones, then they develop an interest in primary colors and contrasts. From four months onward, they start to recognize objects and their depth perception improves. Only after about 8 months is the baby's visual perception developed enough for it to perceive its surroundings as an adult can. However, it still takes additional months, or years, to achieve full visual acuity and to fully develop their ability to see spatially. 

Parents can assist their children with developing their vision in the first year of their life, which has added importance as an essential prerequisite for other milestones like the first intentional smile or reaching for certain things, like dangling toys. Spatial vision is primarily related to the stimulation of hand-eye coordination. This makes gripping toys ideal for encouraging babies to explore and visually perceive at a very early age.

As their ability to see increasingly develops, small children begin to perceive things in open space, to recognize them and to point to them. If they see something particularly exciting outside of their reach, this will encourage them to crawl towards it and inspect the object in more detail.

Parents can experiment with different lighting at different times, dimming while nursing perhaps, and opening window curtains in the early morning. To help support visual development, experts recommend high exposure to daylight, which promotes networking in the nerve cells of the optic nerve. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that all babies are unique and develop on their own timeline.