As a child grows, much of what he or she learns will depend upon vision. It is recommended that a child's eyes first be examined at 6 months of age. This is especially important if there is a history of eye or vision problems in the family, or if the child was born prematurely or with other developmental risks. Additional examinations at ages 3 and 5 years, and annual examinations thereafter, are necessary to ensure good vision care.
Examination of young children involves vision testing with specialized picture test cards, "3D" glasses, and often toys. A spray of dilating eyedrops is used to evaluate refraction (the need for glasses) and eye health.
In addition to regular vision care, there are many things which can be done to enhance visual development:
Birth to 4 months... At birth a baby can see patterns of light and dark, but specific objects will probably be blurred. In these early months, a baby should begin to follow slowly moving objects with his or her eyes. A child also will start to reach for objects, first by chance and later more accurately, as hand-eye co-ordination and depth preception begin to develop.
During this stage, change the position of the crib frequently and also your infant's position in the crib. This allows the child to respond to light from different directions.
Hang a mobile outside and above the crib to provide variety and movement.
Keep reach-and-touch objects within your baby's focus, about 8-12 inches. Objects should be large enough to prevent your baby from swallowing them.
Talk to your baby as you walk around the room. This gives the infant a target to follow and helps him or her associate hearing and seeing.
4 to 6 months....A baby should now begin to be able to turn from side to side and use the arms and legs. During this time, eye movement control and eye and body co-ordination skills also should develop further.
During this stage, allow your baby to explore many different textures and shapes with his or her fingers.
Hang various objects across the crib to foster eye, hand and foot co-ordination.
Hand your baby a small object to grasp. This also helps develop hand-eye co-ordination.
6 to 8 months....Both eyes should focus equally now. A baby should begin to crawl and explore.
During this stage, play games like "peek-a-boo" and "patty cake".
Provide colorful toys, stuffed animals and other objects that have texture and detail.
You should watch for any crossing or turning of the eyes at this age and throughout childhood. This warrants immediate professional attention.
8 to 12 months.... Your baby should probably be more mobile now. At this age, a child will begin to use both eyes together and to judge distances and will grasp and throw objects with greater precision.
During this stage, provide a variety of objects that your baby can touch, hold and see at the same time.
Encourage crawling. This is important in helping your child learn to co-ordinate the use of arms, legs and eyes.
1 to 2 years....At this age, a child's eye-hand co-ordination and depth perception will become well developed.
Activities at this stage should include playing with small objects like building blocks and simple puzzles. This will improve fine motor skills and small muscle development. It will also help your child to begin to visualize "what goes where".
Provide your child with opportunities to climb and explore both indoors and outdoors. As mobility improves, riding a rocking horse or tricycle will help increase co-ordination of the eyes, hands and feet.
2 to 3 years.... At this age, a child should begin speaking in sentences and will become more and more interested in exploring his or her environment.
Read and tell your child stories. This will help improve visualization skills and prepare for learning to read.
Encourage your child to draw, paint and colour. This will allow him or her to develop visually-directed hand movement.