Top 5 Milestones in Vision Development

Infants are born with a complete visual system, but must learn how to see. A child's vision will develop throughout the first year of life. Your child's vision development will be monitored at each well-baby appointment, assuring important milestones are met. Below are the top five milestones in vision development.

Focusing ability

Miracle of Vision. Compassionate Eye Foundation/
Most infants can focus accurately by two to three months of age. The ability to focus requires special eye muscles to change the shape of the lens in order to form clear images. Before two months of age, an infant is capable of focusing objects both near and far, but not very well. It takes time for the eye muscles to learn how to avoid focusing "too close" or "too far away" from near or far objects.

Eye Coordination and Tracking

Baby vision
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A baby usually develops the ability to track and follow a slow-moving object by three months of age. Before this time, an infant will follow large, slow-moving objects with jerky motions and eye muscle movements. A three-month-old can usually track an object quite smoothly. A baby should begin to follow moving objects with the eyes and reach for things at around four months of age.

Depth Perception

Depth perception. Mamoru Muto/Aflo
Depth perception is the ability to judge objects that are nearer or farther than other objects. Depth perception is not present at birth. It is not until the third to fifth month that the eyes are capable of working together to form a three-dimensional view of the world.

Seeing color

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An infant's color vision is not as sensitive as an adult's. It is hard to tell if babies can distinguish colors because their eyes might be attracted by the brightness, the darkness, or the contrast of an object against its surroundings, and not by the color alone. By two to six weeks of age, however, a baby can distinguish two highly contrasted colors, such as black and white.

Object and face recognition

Baby's eyes
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An infant is born with the ability to see facial features at arm's length, but is attracted instead to high-contrast borders of objects. For example, a baby will gaze at the edge of a face or the hairline when looking at a human face. By two to three months of age, a baby will begin to notice facial features, such as the nose and mouth. By three to five months, most babies can differentiate between mother's face and a stranger's face. An infant's vision continues to develop and change.

Source: Infant Vision Lab, The Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center. Milestones in Visual Development. University of Massachusetts Medical School. 08 Jun 2007.

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