By: Dr. Amber Teten –Pediatric Eye Doctor
As a parent, you want to ensure your child grows healthy and happy. Their vision is critical to their development and should not be overlooked. Over 80% of what your child will learn will be through their sense of vision. A knowledgeable pediatric eye doctor should monitor vision development to help ensure your child is meeting their developmental milestones. Proper vision development is crucial for children to thrive and learn. Vision development guides motor development, and the opposite is true. Motor development guides vision development. Dr. Teten, a Pediatric Eye Doctor, will explore the stages of a child’s vision development and offer tips to help support your child’s visual growth.
A Baby’s View of the First Six Months
At birth, a baby’s vision is still developing, and they can only see objects clearly that are within 8 to 10 inches from their face. They also tend to prefer high-contrast patterns and bright colors. Examples of this include black and white stripes or spots. As the weeks pass, their visual abilities improve, and they develop depth perception. At first, depth perception is less fine detail than it would be for an older child.
You can help your baby’s visual development during this period by encouraging play using stimulating toys with bold, high-contrast patterns and bright colors. Mobiles that move and play music are particularly beneficial for a baby’s visual development, as they help improve their tracking skills. You can also use a piece of paper with different widths of black and white stripes and move it slowly back and forth for tracking exercises. This guides motor and vision development as they move their head and eyes from side to side. At very young ages, earlier than four months, it is common to see one eye wander or not work simultaneously with the other eye. A baby’s eye muscles are still building their strength and their coordination with each other.
It’s also essential to give your baby plenty of tummy time to help them develop their neck and core muscles, which are crucial for vision development. Remember, a baby’s visual development is closely linked to their overall physical development, so ensure they achieve the necessary milestones for their age. Tummy time can look different for children; some babies enjoy it while others do not. Tummy time can even be on your chest as you hold your baby, and the incline of how you are sitting can build those muscles more for your little one.
Enormous Visual Progress in Months 6-12
Between 6 and 12 months, your baby’s visual abilities will take a huge leap of progress. They will develop more advanced visual skills, such as depth perception and hand-eye coordination. At this stage, your baby will also recognize familiar faces and objects. You might see them reach for your nose, chin, lips, hair, or even those glasses on your face. They will smile when they recognize mom, dad, or their siblings.
To help support your baby’s visual development during this period, introduce them to toys that require reaching and grasping, such as stacking blocks and shape sorters. Encourage them to crawl and explore their surroundings, which will help them develop their depth perception and hand-eye coordination.
It’s also essential to continue providing your baby with high-contrast toys and patterns, as this will stimulate their visual development. Reading to your baby is another great way to help support their visual development and foster a love for books. Vision and speech development are also intertwined in the developmental stages of babies and young children.
The Advanced Visual Skills of Toddlerhood
As your child enters toddlerhood, their visual abilities become more advanced. They can now see and distinguish colors, shapes, and sizes. They can also recognize and identify objects, people, and animals.
At this age, it’s essential to continue providing your child with opportunities for exploration and play. Puzzles, blocks, and shape sorters are still great options for supporting your child’s visual development, as are activities that encourage them to draw, paint, and color.
It’s also crucial to limit screen time at this stage, as excessive screen time can negatively impact a child’s visual development. If your child does look at digital devices, such as iPads, phones, TV, it is highly recommended to protect their eyes from blue light. At Navigation Eye Care, our pediatric eye doctor recommends that all patients wear blue light glasses to protect their eyes. Instead of hours on screens, encourage your child to play outdoors and engage in activities that allow them to use their eyes differently. It is recommended that your child spend 60-90 minutes outside daily; these guidelines help limit the progression of nearsightedness or myopia in children as they continue to grow. Remember those UV protection sunglasses for your children, even on overcast days. At Navigation Eye Care, we have a variety of children’s sunglasses, both prescription, and non-prescription.
To learn more about the effects of blue light on the eyes, check out Dr. Teten’s blog.
Eye Exams in Early Childhood
Regular eye exams with a qualified pediatric eye doctor are vital to ensuring your child’s good vision and ocular health. Eye exams can detect potential vision problems early, providing timely intervention and treatment.
It’s recommended that children have their first eye exam with a pediatric eye doctor at around six months of age; or between the ages of 6-12 months. This exam will help identify any issues impacting your child’s vision development. Also, this is an excellent introduction for your child and you as a parent to eyecare for your child. Subsequent eye exams should occur at age three unless your child’s pediatric eye doctor recommends more close monitoring or treatment. After that, a comprehensive eye exam is recommended yearly for your child.
Supporting your child’s visual development is essential to ensuring their overall health and well-being. Providing your child with opportunities for play and exploration, limiting screen time, and ensuring they have regular eye exams, can help ensure that your child’s visual development progresses as it should.
For further discussion from Dr. Teten on why your child should have an eye exam, look at this article.
So, if you have a child and need to get their eyes checked out by a qualified pediatric eye doctor, we encourage you to call the Navigation Eye Care team at 757-529-6889 or schedule an appointment. We are equipped and prepared to care for you and your whole family. If you are looking for excellent service in a friendly manner, check us out. We highly recommend that you choose Navigation Eye Care when looking for a top eye doctor in Chesapeake. We will serve in Chesapeake for many years and can’t wait to see you and your family.