Ages 4 to 7 Months: Vision

As your baby works on her important motor skills, have you noticed how closely she watches everything she’s doing? The concentration with which she reaches for a toy may remind you of a scientist engrossed in research. It’s obvious that her good vision is playing a key role in her early motor and cognitive development. Conveniently, her eyes become fully functional just when she needs them most.

Although your baby was able to see at birth, her total visual ability has taken months to develop fully. Only now can she distinguish subtle shades of reds, blues and yellows. Don’t be surprised if you notice that she prefers red or blue to other colors; these seem to be favorites among many infants this age. Most babies also like increasingly complex patterns and shapes as they get older, something to keep in mind when you’re shopping for picture books or posters for your child’s nursery.

By 4 months, your baby’s range of vision has increased to several feet or more, and it will continue to expand until, at about 7 months, her eyesight will be more mature. At the same time, she’ll learn to follow faster and faster movements with her eyes. In the early months, when you rolled a ball across the room, she couldn’t coordinate her eyes well enough to track it, but now she’ll easily follow the path of moving objects. As her hand-to-eye coordination improves, she’ll be able to grab these objects as well.

In general, your child’s visual awareness should clearly increase during these four months. Watch how she responds as you introduce her to new shapes, colors and objects. If she doesn’t seem to be interested in looking at new things, or if one or both eyes turn in or out, inform your pediatrician.

Stimulating Vision

A mobile hung over the crib or in front of the infant seat is an ideal way to stimulate a young baby’s vision. However, by about 5 months your baby will quickly get bored and search for other things to watch. Also by this age, she may be sitting up and might pull down or tangle herself in a mobile. For this reason, mobiles should be removed from cribs or playpens as soon as your baby is able to pull or hold herself upright.

Still another way to hold your baby’s visual interest is to keep her moving around your home, down the block, to the store or out on special excursions. Help her find things to look at that she’s never seen before, and name each one out loud for her.

A mirror is another source of endless fascination for babies this age. The reflected image is constantly changing, and even more important, it responds directly to your child’s own movements. This is her clue that the person in the mirror is actually herself. It may take your baby a while to come to this realization, but it probably will register during this period.

Excerpted from Caring for Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, Bantam 1999

© Copyright 2000 American Academy of Pediatrics