A newborn’s vision is operating at around 5 percent of an adult's and as a result they can only see around 10-12 inches and are unable to perceive depth. By the time a baby reaches 6 months old, they are seeing most of what we see and their vision has caught up - meaning you can no longer get away with sneaking a biscuit just out of sight! As a result, babies love to look at high-contrast black and white patterns which stand out in their blurry worlds. Research suggests that black and white contrasting shapes and patterns register the strongest on a baby’s retina which sends stronger signals to the brain. The clear uncluttered images provide them with something to focus on and encourage those signals sent to the brain, encouraging the development of their vision.
Whilst newborns’ colour perception is limited when they are first born, it is a myth that they can only see in black and white. They can also see patches of intense red on a grey background. Anna Franklin, head of the baby lab at the University of Sussex is exploring how colour is understood by infants. She explains that the specialist cells, known as cones, are sensitive to different wavelengths of light and how the signals are combined and understood is how we perceive different colours. Babies are born with all three types of cone but it takes time for the cells to mature. By the time a baby is two months old they can tell red and green colours apart, then blues and yellows. However, the colours need to be intense - a pale, washed out colour won’t be visible. This is why high contrast colours are best for babies.
As a child continues to develop, introducing other high contrast images provides their eyes practice with seeing a variety of shapes and colours. Usually after black and white, it is common to introduce red next due to the red-green pathway developing first.
As we said above, a baby's eyes develop rapidly over the first few months and after they have left the newborn stage you will want to continue to engage and support your little ones development. Introducing a variety of high contrast, bright colours and then progressing to more muted colours is an excellent way to engage and excite your little one!
An excellent way to support your little ones development is with a range of sensory play, including high contrast images, musical and movement activities. At imogen ruby, we have created sensory boxes perfect to support and entertain your little one as they grow and develop:
To find out more information about how and what babies can see - check out the video produced by the Sussex Baby Lab to learn more - https://www.sussex.ac.uk/babylab/