One of the most wonderful moments you can enjoy in your life is when your child opens their eyes and makes eye contact with you. That's why knowing the stages of a child's visual development, and what you can do to help your child at each stage, is so important if you want your child's eyesight to be perfect and to have the chance to enjoy the world to the fullest.
Below you will learn how children's vision develops at each stage of growth, and the nutrients that are key to good visual development.
The visual development of the child during pregnancy
A child's visual development begins before birth.
It is known that eye development begins on the 18th day of pregnancy, that the eye muscles form very early, and that the fetus' eyes move when it sleeps or changes position.
In approximately the eighth week of pregnancy, the eyelids have already grown so much that they have sealed, covering the eyes, and only one black pigment can be seen through them: the retinas.
The baby can't see yet, but his eyes have been known to move when he sleeps or changes position.
At the sixth month, his eyelids begin to separate and at the seventh month he opens them completely. At this point, the structure of the eyeball is already definitive, so it is believed that the baby - as is the case with premature babies - is able to see from the seventh month onwards.
In the eighth month the formation of the baby in the womb allows it to be sensitive to light. This means that their pupils contract or dilate depending on the intensity of the light. He also opens his eyes when he is awake and closes them when he is asleep (most of the time).
But what do you see?
There is certainly not much to see in their limited field of vision, however, visual receptors already seem slightly sensitive to light.
When a light stimulus is intense and contrasting enough to pass through the uterine wall and amniotic fluid, such as from the sun or a strong beam of artificial light, the baby may react by moving within a few seconds.
What does your baby see at each stage?
Have you ever wondered how a newborn baby perceives the world around him?
The visual development of the newborn child
Newborn babies are very sensitive to light. They only see in shades of gray because the cones responsible for capturing color have not yet developed.
Their visual acuity is very poor because the visual system takes some time to develop.
At this stage they can see something situated next to them with peripheral (side) vision, because the central vision is still developing, in fact they can only perceive at a distance of 20-25 centimetres.
In the first week of life, babies don't notice many details. Although they seem to be looking at an object or a person, they have not yet developed the ability to shift their gaze from one point to another.
Newborns have what is called an "auditory gaze": they open their eyes and turn their heads to where the sound is coming from.
It will take several months for your vision to fully develop.
What happens during the first few weeks?
During the first weeks of life, babies begin to respond to movement and focus their attention on faces.
Large shapes and bright colors may begin to attract their attention, and babies may begin to focus on objects in front of them.
Eye movements are usually rapid or jerky.
It is not until two or three months that most show a central fixation and begin to follow up with eyes.
How do babies look during the first two months of life?
Between one and two months, babies are dazzled and smile when they see their mothers' and fathers' faces up close.
At this point they are already able to follow a hand that enters their field of vision with their eyes, and they direct their head where there is a light source.
Babies' eyes, during the first two months, do not work very well together, they will seem to be crossed or to go sideways. In most cases, this is normal and corrects itself. However, if one of the eyes seems to constantly drift towards the nose or out (strabismus), an ophthalmologist should be consulted.
From the age of two and a half months, he will begin to memorize faces and follow the movement of objects with his eyes, because his vision, both near and far, will become more precise.
At this stage he will also begin to develop color vision, first red, then green, white, black and gray.
¿How does a child's vision evolve between 3 and 5 months?
From three months, babies' eyes should work well together.
Between 3 and 5 months children already have binocular vision. They can distinguish more colors and focus easily on objects that are 40 centimeters away. They look at their hands and play with them.
From the age of 4 months they begin to develop depth perception and eye-hand coordination.
Towards the end of this stage, your child will start stretching his arms and touching objects, something that used to happen only by chance.
5-8 months: development of visual acuity
From about the fifth month, babies' colour vision is quite developed, although it is still not as sensitive as that of an adult.
They have better control of eye movements, and their eye-body coordination skills continue to improve.
They can form a three-dimensional image of the world and determine how far away objects are because their eyes are already able to work together. This is known as depth perception.
From the fifth month onwards, they are able to make pressure movements with their hands because they manage to combine what they see with their motor skills.
At six months, visual acuity reaches a "normal" state.
In general, babies start crawling around eight months. This new skill improves coordination between their eyes, feet, hands, and the rest of the body even more.
Child's vision development: 9-12 months
Around nine months of age, babies can estimate distances fairly well and that's when they start trying to get up to stand.
It is also when your eyes usually reach their final shade, although it is not uncommon to appreciate some subtle changes later.
At about ten months, young children can calculate and appreciate distances well enough to grasp something between their index finger and thumb.
As they approach the first year of life, the connection between eyes, movement and memory is strengthened.
During this time parents notice considerable improvements in eye-hand coordination. Children at this stage judge distances fairly well or throw objects with some precision.
With each passing day, they become more skilled in their attempts to roll a ball, grab their toys, put food in their mouths, or take their first steps.
Child's vision development: 1-2 years
Eye-hand coordination and depth perception should be well developed by the age of two.
At this age, young children show a great interest in exploring the world around them, watching and listening to everything that happens around them.
They recognize drawings in their books, familiar objects, and make an effort to scribble with paints or pencils.
Good vision is essential to a child's physical and mental development, on which their academic success and overall well-being will depend.
When the child has a well-developed visual capacity, it is easier for him/her to run, jump, avoid obstacles, avoid uneven terrain, ride a bicycle, etc.
In turn, visual activity is stimulated with new levels of experiences, which allow them to be more effective, increase their capacity for mobile movement, or they have the need to handle visual information more quickly, among other things.
How can you help your child's visual development?
The development of children's vision begins during pregnancy, so how a mother takes care of her own body is of utmost importance, not only for the development of the baby's body but also for its brain and visual development.
From birth onwards, the nutrition of both the breastfeeding mother and the child remains equally important to continue the correct visual development of the child.
Professional eye examinations are another way to help your child's visual development. Some eye problems, if detected early, can usually be treated effectively.
The first eye exam is done when the child is a newborn.
Then, an eye exam is needed for children in good health between six months and one year of age.
Then, between the first and second year of life, between 3 and 4 years old, and from 4 years old onwards, periodic check-ups until adolescence.
What nutrients are important for a child's visual development?
There are 2 nutrients that are of vital importance in the visual development of children, these are the fatty acids DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid).
Did you know that DHA makes up 97% of the omega-3 fatty acids in the brain and 93% of those in the retina?
ARA represents 50% of the omega-6 fatty acids in the brain and 60% of those in the retina.
So both nutrients are of radical importance for the brain and visual development of children during pregnancy and lactation.
Another micronutrient that plays a vital role in vision is Vitamin A.
To see the full spectrum of light, the eye needs to produce certain pigments for the retinal photo-receptor cells to function properly.
A deficiency of vitamin A stops the production of these pigments, causing night blindness.
The eye also needs vitamin A to nourish its own elements, including the cornea (the clear layer at the front of the eye).
Without enough vitamin A, the eyes cannot produce enough moisture to keep them properly lubricated.
¿Where do children get DHA, ARA?
The baby gets DHA and ARB in the uterus, so it's essential that women take in these nutrients in the recommended amounts during pregnancy.
After birth, DHA and ARA are found in breast milk and some infant formulas containing fatty acids, which help promote brain and eye development in infants at every stage of development.
It has been widely demonstrated that children fed formulas with higher levels of DHA or given for longer periods exhibit better visual acuity or greater sensitivity of the retina to light.
And where do they get the Vitamin A?
Retinol or vitamin A is also a natural component of breast milk, which is why it is considered the best food for babies, because it contains all the nutrients necessary for the integral development of the baby during the first stage of its life.
For mothers who are unable to breastfeed or who choose not to, infant formulas contain adequate levels of Vitamin A.
What foods contain DHA, ARA and Vitamin A?
Pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children from the age of one will be able to get DHA, ARB and Vitamin A directly from food.
Some foods rich in Omega-3 (DHA) are:
Omega-6 (ARA) you can get it from:
You can find out more about the importance of DHA and ARA in our post: DHA and ARA: essential nutrients for your baby.
There are two different types of Vitamin A found in the diet.
- 1Preformed vitamin A is found in animal products such as beef, fish, poultry and dairy products.
- 2Provitamin A is found in foods of plant origin, such as fruits and vegetables. The most common type of provitamin A is beta-carotene, which is made from carrots, for example.
What role do fortified milks and infant formulas play in a child's visual development?
Studies have shown that most pregnant and lactating women, as well as young children, do not consume the recommended amounts of essential nutrients.
Fortified milks for pregnant and lactating women as well as infant formulas have the ability to supplement the diet so that both mothers and their children reach the requirements of different nutrients essential for the proper development of children.
Several studies with fortified and enriched dairy products have shown benefits to the bone health of both mother and child, and it appears that they may also have a positive impact on the child's visual and cognitive development.
Milk is also one of nature's main sources of calcium and the only one in the baby. Calcium is also essential, among other functions, for the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth.
But in addition, fortified milks and infant formulas provide very valuable elements such as vitamins, high biological value proteins, minerals and fatty acids.
A child's visual development begins during pregnancy.
From the 18th day of pregnancy the child's eyes and vision develop in stages.
The nutrition a mother gets during pregnancy and breastfeeding is key to her child's successful visual development.
There are 3 nutrients that are necessary in the development of vision, and that both mother and child must obtain through feeding.
Fortified milks and infant formulas help mother and child reach recommended amounts of essential nutrients.
The information presented on nutrigrow.club is not intended to provide or replace the advice of your pediatric physician or medical nutritionist.
The information presented in this post is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Full medical clearance must be obtained from a licensed physician before modifying a child's diet.
The authors assume no liability to any person or entity for any liability, loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application or interpretation of the information presented in this post.