Parents' Guide To Children's Normal Visual Development From Infancy To Preschool
Normal Visual Development Excerpted from: A Reference Guide for Preschool Children's Vision Development ©"", 1995
This Parents' Guide is designed to give you enough information about visual development so you can make intelligent observations, and know when, where, and how to help your preschool child. The Parents' Visual Development Checklist for Preschool Children, below can help you know where a child is on the scale of developing necessary visual skills. Because the sequence of child development is more important than the age at which a given skill developed, all ages given on the checklist are approximate. If your child lags behind the scale by more than four to six weeks in the time from birth to age two, professional help should be sought to assure your child's successful performance in his academic future. Referrals to eye doctors who specialize in children's visual development can be obtained through this site by visiting our Referral Directory: Find a Pediatric Eye Doctor.
To Observe The Appearance And Use of The Eyes General Notes to Consider Before Going Through the Checklist: Most of the conditions or behaviors noted below will catch your attention. However, none of these conditions should ever be allowed to continue. Children do not "outgrow" developmental delays or gaps. The basic physical condition of the eyes must be normal, and the eyes healthy, if your preschooler is to develop the visual skills necessary for achievement in the classroom.
If any one of these developmental activities is omitted or practiced too briefly by your baby, it is important to watch all other developmental signs to be certain your baby is gaining all the skills he needs. Delay in visual development can interfere with total development because of the close interrelationships between all sensory systems (sensory-motor integration).
SPECIAL NOTE: Parents frequently become alarmed when they see one of their child's eyes appearing to turn in (deviating) toward the child's nose. When the child is very young, and the bridge of the nose is still very flat and broad and this can give a false appearance of a crossed-eye (pseudostrabismus). Look carefully at pictures of your child, and if the reflections of the camera flash bulb are centered in the pupil (the black, round center of each eye), there is probably little cause for concern. However, if this reflection is not in the center of the eye, professional attention should be sought immediately because children seldom outgrow vision problems without professional assistance. Do not hesitate to get several opinions before anything as radical as eye muscle surgery is recommended for your child at these early ages. There are several proven clinical (non-surgical) procedures to alleviate most of these problems, and surgery should always be the last resort. To learn more about eye muscle surgery for eye deviations go to our page on Eye Turn, Lazy Eye (Amblyopia, Mata Malas 懒惰眼).
Parents' Preschool Visual Development Checklist
© Optometric Extension Program, 1995
Dear Parent: Your child's visual readiness for school starts developing on the day of birth. Every moment of visual experience is a part of the practice and organization which will prepare your child for the visual load of the classroom. This checklist has been prepared by Behavioral and Developmental optometrists and informed educators to help you assure your child of the success and pleasure available in all the academic years that lie ahead.
1. Abnormal Appearance Of Eyes -- Immediate Eye Exam Needed:
- Unusual redness of eyes
- Unusual redness of lids
- Crusted eyelids
- Styes, or sores, on lids
- Excessive tearing
- Unusual lid drooping
- One eye turns in or out with fatigue
2. Evidence Of Discomfort -- Immediate Eye Exam Needed:
- Excessive rubbing of eyes
- Avoids bright light
- Keeps eyes closed too much of the time
3. Expected Visual Performances -- Normal Visual Development:
REMEMBER: All the age ranges given above are approximate. Lags of a week are usual, but any definite developmental delay or non-performance should be given every necessary attention. The performances listed above are important. All are preparatory to school readiness and are visual skills that are essential to lifetime activities.
Vision (visual development) milestones according to age
The following is a timeline of some of the key visual age-based milestones, to provide a basic guideline for parents to know what to expect throughout their child’s development.
It is important to remember that each child is unique and may reach certain milestones at different ages.
Please note, this is ONLY a guideline, and should not be used to replace the consultation of an eye care professional.
Birth to 1 month
- Blinks in response to bright light
- Uncoordinated eye movements— may appear “crossed-eyed”
- Ability to stare at an object 8-10 inches away
- Stares at light or face
- Begins to track or follow moving objects
1 to 2 months
- Clear vision only for objects 10-12 inches away
- Stares at faces and black and white images
- Follows an object up to 90 degrees
- Watches parent closely
- Begins to develop tears
2 to 3 months
- Begins to notice familiar objects up to 12 inches away
- Examines own hands
- Follows faces, objects, and light
4 to 5 months
- Begins to reach for nearby objects, such as a hanging mobile
- Recognizes objects such as a bottle or pacifier
- Looks at self in mirror
5 to 7 months
- Develops full color vision
- Ability to see images and objects from few feet away
- Turns head to view objects
- Favors certain colors
- Touches mirror image of self
7 to 12 months
- Development of independent eye movements
- Sees smaller objects
- Development of depth perception
- Crawls to reach distant objects
- Plays peek-a-boo
- Watches and follows fast-moving objects
12 to 18 months (1 to 1.5 years)
- Clear distance vision
- Depth perception for objects further than 2 feet away
- Refinement of eye movements
- Recognizes images of familiar objects
- Walks to interact with interesting items
- Recognizes self in mirror
18 to 24 months (1.5 to 2 years)
- Begins to focus on objects closer than 2 feet
- Clear distance vision
- Development of fine-motor skills
- Colors with crayons— attempting to draw straight lines or circles
- Identifies body parts —mouth, eyes, and hair, etc.
24 to 36 months (2 to 3 years)
- Improvement of close vision skills: convergence and focusing
- Development of binocular vision at all distances
- Can change focus from distance to near
- Improvement of depth perception
- Uses focusing to recognize shapes and objects
36 to 48 months (preschool)
- Distance vision nearing 20/20
- Clear and single vision up to few inches from face
- Development of gross-motor coordination
- Recognizes complex visual shapes and letters
- Identifies colors
48 to 72 months (school)
- Knows letters and some words
- Recognizes orientation of letters
- Begins reading
- Possesses a matured sense of depth perception
- Clear, single and comfortable vision at all distances
Frequently Asked Questions
Vision development begins in the womb and continues throughout childhood and adolescence.
The development of a mature visual system is especially critical within the first six years of life.
The first six years of life is considered the “vulnerable period” because it is a time when the child’s development is most vulnerable to the effects of the various threats to their eye health and vision. Any change in vision or ocular health can inhibit a child from developing the necessary visual skills, and cause developmental delays.
An infant’s eyes are examined by the neonatal pediatrician soon after birth to rule out any of the common postpartum eye diseases such as cataracts, infantile glaucoma, and eye tumors.
The recommended schedule of eye exams for children includes:
- One visit between 6-12 months
- One visit between 2-3 years old
- One visit between 4-5 years old
- Annual visit, from 6 years and up
Young children may not report if they feel that something is wrong— simply because they don’t realize that something is wrong!
Parents play a vital role in their child’s healthy development of vision. It is therefore important for parents to:
- Watch for signs of a vision problem
- Schedule their first eye exam at around 6 months of age
- Follow your eye doctors advice on an appropriate schedule of eye exams
- Engage in parent-play age-appropriate activities that can stimulate your child’s vision, such as swing mobiles, soft toys, and playful games
- Allow children to safely explore and interact with their natural environment, such as playing in a sandbox or climbing a tree
- Provide challenging physical experiences, such as riding a tricycle and catching balls
- Increase the visual demand of play and activities, such as sports and flashcards
If you think your child may not be responding to their environment appropriately, or you notice that your child is not reaching an important developmental milestone, schedule an eye exam to rule out any vision problems.
If an issue with the development of their visual system is detected, try not to worry— your eye doctor will advise you on the most appropriate treatment plan for your child, to facilitate the best possible way to help them achieve their visual developmental milestones.
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