Paying Attention


Visual development in your baby sets the stage for cognitive development as she uses her sense of sight.


Dad is having some alone time with seven-month-old Ethan. He lays Ethan on his cloth ring on the floor, and then Dad takes his keys out of his pocket and slowly jingles them in front of Ethan's face. Ethan looks up at Dad and stares at the keys intently. Dad jingles and moves the keys from the lef t side to the right side and watches Ethan follow the keys with his eyes. Many times Ethan reaches up and attempts to grab the keys. As Dad sees this he lowers the keys a little bit so Ethan can touch them. Dad repeats this activity several times until Ethan is ready to move on to another activity.


Because the keys are shiny and jingle, they reflect the light and catch Ethan's attention. The light shining on the keys is let ting Ethan's eyes tell his brain that there is something interesting about these keys. This is what leads Ethan to explore the keys by reaching and touching them. Ethan is demonstrating his attention and handeye coordination skills. In the blink of an eye, he can reach out and touch an object, something that previously only happened by chance.

What else can your baby see?

- Your baby can see 8 to 15 inches in front of her.

- At one month, she will pay attention to the hairline of a parent.

- At two months, your baby will give more attention to the eyes on a face.

- At three months, your baby will focus on your facial expressions.

Visual Development

Your baby must have the ability to develop sight and focus her attention on you, other people, and objects. This occurs as your baby starts glancing around, looking at the faces of her parents, and seeing smiling responses. As her vision becomes more refined, your baby will use her eyes to focus on colors and respond to sounds by looking toward the sound.

Let’s take a moment to talk about your baby’s sense of sight during this age. Despite your baby’s limited visual development, the moment you and your baby make eye contact for the first time she is developing her ability to focus her attention on you. The more your baby makes eye contact during the first month after birth the more she will develop a preference for looking at your face.

The more your baby makes eye contact during the first month after birth the more she will develop a preference for looking at your face. It is very important for primary caregivers to keep their facial appearance unchanged after the baby is born. Limit your use of scarves and caps; don’t get a new hair color or a drastic haircut after your baby is born; she does not care if your hair is done. She just wants to see your face and feel your touch; this is what makes her feel safe and comfortable.

In addition to having a preference for looking at their primary caregivers’ faces, your baby is only able to see in black and white and shades of gray upon birth because the nerve cells in the back of her eyeballs are sensitive to light, but her vision is not fully developed.

Your baby will develop her ability to see color a few days after birth. At one week old, your baby will see red, orange, yellow, and green. These colors are more stimulating for your baby, so use them instead of pastels in your baby’s room for mobiles, decorations, and curtains. By six months, your baby’s visual ability has grown tremendously; she is now able to see things more clearly and quickly. Your baby’s vision is now 20/25, and she can see all the colors of the rainbow (red, yellow, orange, purple, blue, and green).

At six months of age your baby should have her first eye exam.Your pediatrician will check for nearsightedness (your baby can see closer objects) and farsightedness (closer objects are blurry); both are related to how light is focused as it enters your baby’s eyes. Your physician will also check for astigmatism, which occurs when your baby’s eye is shaped more like an American football. If astigmatism is present, the light that is projected onto the retina is distorted, causing your baby to see a blurred or distorted image. Support your baby’s visual development by positioning yourself in her line of sight. Once she focuses, move your face so she follows you with her eyes. This will develop visual tracking skills.

During the period of 7 to 12 months of age, your baby is developing her ability to coordinate her vision with her attention span and to focus for two to three seconds on patterned objects of stripes and checks as opposed to solid-colored objects.

Visual development is important for your baby because to grow he needs to use the visual information his eyes send to his brain to understand the world around him and interact with it appropriately. You play an important role in helping your baby’s eyes develop properly.