Vision development in babies is just as important as learning to crawl or communicate. Vision development happens slowly over time and it is important that they have healthy eyes to meet vision milestones as well as developmental milestones. At birth, babies can focus on objects about 30cm from their face and are not able to distinguish between different objects.
Eye-hand coordination starts to develop in the first few months of life. By two months of age, babies should be able to see and focus on faces. In the first couple of months, babies’ eyes may appear to not be well coordinated, their eyes may appear crossed. This is also partly due to epicanthal folds in the inner eyelids.
At three months of age babies should be tracking targets and reaching for objects in their sight.
At five months of age their eyes will start to work together and develop the beginning of depth perception. Being able to track objects with both eyes laterally is important for binocular vision. This is when infantile esotropias will become present. Infantile esotropias are when one eye crosses inwards due to the lack of ability to coordinate with the dominant eye while tracking laterally. Crawling and other bilateral activities are critical to also helping visual development, especially eye hand coordination.
The first recommended eye exam is at 6 months of age. Optometrists can check eye health, tracking, and determine if there is risk of developing a lazy eye or eye turn. If there is any sign that something is not right with your child’s vision book an eye exam and talk to your doctor.
Over the next year babies will develop colour vision, improved depth perception, eye hand coordination, tracking, and spatial awareness.
At 3 years of age, eye focusing (accommodation) ability starts to develop. This is important for children learning to read, draw, focusing on near objects. Reading to children promotes visualization which is a very important when children are learning to read and helps with reading comprehension.
Over the years, visual skills continue to evolve and specialize. It is important to get 40 minutes per day of outdoor time to reduce the risk of myopia (near-sightedness). Reducing screen time, holding near work further away also helps reduce the risk of myopia.
UV protection is especially important in children. UV exposure is cumulative over a lifetime and children have less natural UV protection in their eye’s cornea and lens. With age, the cornea and crystalline lens develop natural UV protection to protect the retina.