First, proper prenatal care and nutrition can help your baby's eyes develop even before birth. At birth, your baby's eyes should be examined for signs of congenital eye problems. These are rare, but early diagnosis and treatment are important to your child's development.
Between the age of 6 and 12 months, take your baby to your doctor of optometry for his or her first thorough eye examination. Your optometrist will test for many things, including excessive or unequal amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism and eye movement ability. Your doctor will also check for eye health problems. These problems are not common, but it is important to identify children who have them at this stage. Vision development and eye health problems are more easily corrected if treatment begins early.
Unless you notice a need, or your doctor of optometry advises you otherwise, your child's next examination should be around age 3, and then again before he or she enters school.
Specific Ways to Help Your Infant's Vision Develop
Between birth and age 3, many of your baby's vision skills will develop. Here are some ways you can help.During the first 4 months of life, your baby should begin to follow moving objects with his or her eyes and reach for things. Reaching will become more accurate as hand-eye coordination and depth perception begin to develop. To help development:
- Use a nightlight or other dim lamp in your baby's room.
- Change the crib's position frequently and your child's position in it.
- Keep reach-and-touch toys within your baby's focus of about eight to 12 inches.
- Talk to your baby as you walk around the room.
- Alternate right and left sides with each feeding.
- Hang a mobile above and outside the crib.
Between 4 and 8 months, your baby should begin to turn from side to side and use his or her arms and legs. Eye movement and eye-body coordination skills should develop further, and both eyes should focus equally.To help development:
- Help your baby explore different shapes and textures with his or her fingers.
- Give your baby the freedom to crawl and explore.
- Hang objects across the crib.
- Play "patty cake" and "peek-a-boo" with your baby.
From 8 to 12 months, your baby should be mobile now, crawling and pulling himself or herself up. He or she will begin to use both eyes together and judge distances and grasp and throw objects with greater precision. To help development:
- Don't encourage early walking; crawling is important in developing eye-hand-foot-body coordination.
- Give your baby stacking and take-apart toys.
- Provide your baby with objects he or she can hold and see at the same time.
From 1 to 2 years, your child's eye-hand coordination and depth perception will continue to develop. He or she will also begin to understand abstract terms. To help development:
- Encourage walking.
- Provide building blocks, simple puzzles and balls.
- Provide opportunities to climb and explore indoors and out.
There are many other affectionate and loving ways you can help your baby's vision develop. Use your creativity and imagination, and ask your doctor of optometry to suggest other specific activities.
Questions? Make an appointment for your child with a trusted Gaddie Eye Center doc!