Babies see faces first, then eventually see moving objects and things in 3 dimensions. Whānau can use a variety of activities to stimulate baby.

Did you know that most of what we learn begins with what we see?

The development of baby’s vision is important, and the Well Child/Tamariki Ora nurse will check at each visit to make sure everything is developing on track.

Familiar faces are the most popular

In their early weeks, newborn babies prefer to look at faces – especially the eyes – over anything else.

Studies have shown that after only 3 days, a baby will seek out their own mum’s face in preference to an unknown woman.

In the Whakatipu booklet Te Pihinga 1 (page 4), Pēpi says, ‘I gaze a lot and like to study the faces of people in my new world.’

Ask the whānau:

  • What happens when you hold baby, make eye contact and talk or sing to them?
  • Have you noticed them trying to copy any of your mouth movements?
  • Would you like to try the 'Face-to-face talking' activity?

What newborns see best

A new baby sees an object best when it's about 30 centimetres away. This is the approximate distance for a baby at the breast to concentrate on mum’s face.

Contrasting patterns of light and dark, especially black and white, are great for stimulating their vision.

A homemade cardboard book with simple black and white shapes or patterns is perfect for this and is easy to make.

Ask the whānau if they’d like to try the 'Black-and-white book' activity.

Te Pihinga 1 also talks about this activity on page 10.

Babies’ vision at 2 months

By about 2 months, babies like to watch moving objects.

  • What happens when you move around the room or move a toy in front of them?
  • Does baby follow with their eyes?

Babies’ vision at 3–6 months: Combining senses

Baby can see things at different distances now, their colour vision has matured and they can see in 3D. Now that they can also reach and grasp, we’ll see their senses all working together.

First they hear a noise (say, from a rattle), then they turn their head towards it, see it, reach out, grasp the rattle and of course bring it to their mouth to find out more about it.

More vision activities to try

Whānau can help stimulate baby’s vision by carrying them around the house, so they get different views.

  • Ask whānau if they’d like to try the activity called 'Activities around the house'.

They could also try the 'Play gym activity'. This involves making a simple play gym so that baby can explore by reaching, grasping and batting.

  • Parents can also sit with baby between their legs and a container with 2 or 3 safe objects in it. They can explore them and talk about them together.

How does this topic relate to Tākai resources?

Baby wall frieze – Ka taea au ki te mātakitaki – I can watch

So much of my early learning comes from what I see.

Six things children need – Te ārahi me te māramatanga – guidance and understanding

We know pēpi is learning by exploring with their eyes, ears, mouth, nose and hands.

Helpful resources for whānau