mother holding baby

When your newborn comes into the world, you’ll spend tons of time (we’re talking hours!) gazing into your sweet little baby’s eyes. But have you ever wondered what they can actually see? Newborns have pretty limited eyesight at birth, but it improves quickly as they grow. Here’s how your little one’s vision develops throughout their first year of life.

Newborn to 3 Months Old

Believe it or not, newborns generally don’t have the ability to focus on anything further than 6 to 10 inches away! That’s part of the reason your face will be one of their favorite sights to see. Position yourself accordingly, so that you and baby can see each other clearly.

Since baby's vision is initially so poor, a lot of the things they attempt to focus on in their environment will simply blur together. They can, however, make out patterns and objects with very distinct colors. Place objects containing large shapes, and high-contrast colors in front of baby for some additional stimulation. Black and white patterned toys are great for this stage.

You might notice that your little one’s eyes aren’t very coordinated and sometimes might even appear to be crossed. But don’t worry, as this is typically normal. If you have any concerns or notice an eye turning in or out consistently, chat with baby’s provider about an evaluation.

4 to 8 Months Old

By the time your baby hits the four-month mark, they should also begin to follow moving objects with their eyes. Place your baby in a play gym with lots of hanging toys to grab, pull and kick to encourage their visual development. If you notice that your baby isn’t making steady eye contact or isn’t following things moving in their field of vision, speak to your child’s provider.

By this stage, babies are better able to distinguish the difference between different colors and can start to focus on smaller objects in their surroundings. At 4 months your baby’s eyes will also begin working together, rather than separately. This “binocular vision” is what helps your little one develop depth perception and hand-eye coordination. You might notice that they have much better aim when grabbing for toys.

9 to 12 Months Old

By the time your little one turns a year old, their vision is much better. Your baby will do a lot of work developing their depth perception and hand-eye coordination while crawling and exploring their surroundings. At this stage, they’ll also be able to judge distances well, and even throw toys with decent precision.

Now is the time to help older babies develop visual memory and word association. Babies at this age love playing peek-a-boo with toys (or you!), and love learning the names of objects you point to around the room or in their books.

As your baby continues to grow, keep in mind their vision (just like many other things) will develop at his or her own rate. Since your little one’s vision is rapidly changing, your baby’s provider will check their eyes and ask about specific milestones at each well-child visit to ensure they’re on the right track. If you have any concerns about your child’s vision, or questions about their development, never hesitate to discuss them with baby’s provider.