Below we go over what does a newborn see, newborn activities designed to help foster your newborn’s visual development, and recommended toys that are perfect based on what a newborn can see.
What can a newborn see? Baby’s vision from 0-1 Month:
Your newborn’s vision will fly through milestones rapidly in his first weeks and months of life. However, it is important to know what he can see as a newborn, so that you know how to best engage his visual development and also what toys to have during this newborn stage.
Once your bundle of joy is born, he can see best 8-10 inches in front of him and will be sensitive to light. Even at this close range distance, however, everything is blurry. In other words, he has poor visual acuity; so it is very difficult for him to differentiate between two objects that are close together. Despite having no visual memory and relatively poor vision, newborns have been shown to recognize their Mom’s and Dad’s faces within hours. Nature is truly amazing.
Unlike some of his other senses, your baby’s visual development will go through a relatively rapid improvement after being born. But in the first month, he sees things in a 2-dimension viewpoint, unlike us who see the world in 3D. Around the end of his one month birthday, your newborn may be able to briefly focus on things 3 feet away, and be able to recognize things and individuals at a distance. His color vision is also very poor in the first weeks of life, and can only really see those with high contrasting qualities (for example: black and white). He will also show a preference for human faces, simpler stimuli, and simpler patterns in this first month.
There are 2 visual characteristics that most parents are not aware of in their newborn. The first is that your baby sees better with their peripheral vision, which lasts about 2 months. Pay attention to him and see if you notice how toys or objects grab his attention more to his side versus in front of him. The second visual milestone worth mentioning is babies are interested in objects in motion when compared to other visual characteristics. At first, when you slowly move a toy across your baby’s face, their eyes will follow in a delayed, jerky way. However, by 2 months, he will follow objects more smoothly and with more precision.
Activities for newborns that engage visual development:
Now that we know what your baby sees and their visual preferences, we can now design an engaging visual environment for your newborn. His visual range is short, but perfect to focus on Mom and Dad. The first months of your baby’s life are especially important for creating a loving bond and sense of security for him. This all naturally ties in nicely together. The main activity for your newborn, therefore, is face to face contact! This can be during the brief moments of quiet alertness, holding, breastfeeding, or laying down. Let him see your smiling face and give him practice in focusing on and differentiating between your eyes, nose, and watch the movement of your mouth.
- Be sure to hang those fun toys 8-15 inches away, so that it’s where your newborn will most likely see them best. Also, hang them to the side of the crib or wherever baby is laying, so that he can see them in his peripheral vision.
- Grab a toy that matches the characteristics we list below and move it from side to side in front of him. Watch as the toy grabs his attention and he tracks its motion. As you do this game next time, see if you can tell if he is tracking the toy smoother and with less delay.
- Begin the habit of reading books to your baby. Reading books is always a fun thing to do with babies and it targets many areas of development for your newborn, so it’s good to start now!
- Be sure to check out more sensory activities for infants on the Activity Page as you will find more and specific baby activities.
Recommended Developmental Newborn Toys:
If we want to stimulate our newborn’s vision, we have to understand 1. what he is able to see and 2. what will entice him most. For example, soft colored, pastel blue and/or pink mobiles look great for a baby’s room, however, they will unfortunately go mainly unnoticed by them. Instead, aim for high contrasting colors, especially black and white at this stage. Patterns such as stripes, lines, or checkerboards are also good to get. Toys with pleasant faces are also enticing for babies, but make sure the features of the face are noticeable. Here are examples below:
This mobile (Manhattan Toy Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim-Mobile for Cribs) is very visually stimulating and diverse. It comes with 10 different interchangeable cards. You can start with high contrast, black and white patterns, and then move to the colored red cards, then blue and yellow cards. Also, included are various pleasant faces. They also make a similar mobile for traveling purposes- Manhattan Toy Wimmer-Ferguson Infant Stim Mobile To Go Travel Toy. It folds flat which makes it easily transportable.
This is a Developmental Mat that your little one can play on while in tummy time. The high contrast colors will get your baby’s attention and will be stimulating from afar or directly on the mat.
A box of high-contrast entertaining cards you can switch out to stimulate baby’s vision. They have different sets, such as Safari Animals or Farm Animals. The Farm Animals are favorites!
Books are great to have for young babies. Good ones provide stimulating things to look at, different textures to feel, begins conversations with Mom and Dad, and are interesting to play with as your baby gets older. We list a few we like here.