Children are born with an undeveloped visual system that will develop rapidly in the first few years of life. While some babies are born with vision problems which will be detected within the first few days of birth, others may fail to develop their full visual potential due to inadequate diet or developmental delays.
Optometrist Anthony Stanich has provided this list of visual milestones, with suggestions of play that will encourage eye development.
- At birth babies can see patterns of light and dark. During the first 4 months a baby will begin to follow slow moving objects and be able to recognise facial expressions. A mobile will provide visual stimulation for focus and eye movement development, while a variety of safe objects within baby’s focus distance will encourage hand eye coordination as baby reaches to touch.
- 4 – 6 - months control of eye movement develops further as the baby learns to turn from side to side. Occasionally one eye may be turned in towards the nose or to the outside, this may happen first with one eye then the other, this is normal in the first six months and is part of the development of binocularity, which is the use of two eyes together
- 6 – 8 - months both eyes are focusing equally, if the eyes are crossed, they are not working together and prompt examination is required, this is not a problem a child will outgrow.
- 8 – 12- months babies are more mobile, crawling helps to develop hand eye coordination, and as depth perception is still developing tumbles and falls are common.
- 1 – 2 - years coordination of eyes and hands is well developed encouraging play with building blocks and puzzles will improve precision in movement and help small muscle development, climbing, rocking horses and bike riding all increase the coordination of hands, eyes and feet.
- 2 – 3 years – useful activities are reading and telling stories to improve your child’s ability to understand visual information and to prepare for learning to read. Drawing and painting will further develop accurate hand movements.
- By 3 years a thorough optometric examination will reveal any problems and will check that your child is acquiring the many visual skills necessary for complete development.
Parents concerned about their child's vision should ask their GP for a referral to a paediatric ophthalmologist.