Babies have to learn how to see just like learning how to walk and talk. Babies develop a number of visual skills in order to use their eyes effectively and know what they are looking at. This is a process that parents can help with along the way.
Baby Eyesight for the First Six Months
An infant’s eyesight is just made up of lights, shadows, and blurry shapes. The only distance he or she is able to see is about 8 to 15 inches in front of the face, which is just enough to see the person that holds them. Over time, vision becomes clearer and sharper. Parents can help with this by providing plenty of color. Color vision will take a few weeks to develop and once it does your infant can’t get enough of bright pretty colors. You can also move objects in front of your infant to encourage him or her to track movement with the eyes. The popular game of peek-a-boo is also important to also help them practice focusing the eyes. During this time, you want to put a dim lamp or night light in your baby’s room, change positions when you lay the baby down in the crib, and alternate left and right when you feed and hold your baby for the best development.
Eye Progress in the First Year
When your infant is about six months old, he or she starts to develop hand-eye coordination. You are able to help this by providing colorful things for him or her to play with and grab. Hang a mobile above the crib or changing table. Objects should be close enough to kick and play with but out of reach when the baby is in the crib and it’s time for sleep. Babies also learn coordination by crawling and it can take a few bumps on the head before the baby understands that heads are still above the eyes. Make sure you encourage your baby to crawl by standing away from your child and calling his or her name. You can also gently move your baby’s hands and play different games like patty cake. Place wooden or plastic objects in his or her hand. After six months, babies may get bored of peek-a-boo since they have learned object permanence. When this happens then it’s time to move on to a game of hide and seek by hiding a toy and having them find it.
Eyesight during Toddlerhood
When your child learns to walk then it takes coordination even further and playing with balls can help. Roll a ball back and forth on the ground. Your child’s visual skills are also connected to balance and comprehension. As your child begins talking, it will put their visual skills to the test by putting names with objects. Read to your child and point to the pictures while you do so. Around two years old, toddlers will start to discover some artistic abilities so drawing with paper and crayons can help. Blocks made of wood that interlock can also be a great game.
The Importance of Eye Exams
Playing the right games and providing your child with stimulating toys will be important but it won’t be everything for eye health. You can’t forget the importance of eye exams. Babies, as well as toddlers, won’t be able to tell you if something is wrong with their eyes or sight so they will need an eye doctor to check them. You should schedule an eye exam when your child is six months old and then another one when they are three. A child that has a high risk for eye problems may need to have their eyes checked more frequently. This includes children who were born early or have a condition or disease that affects the brain. Early diagnosis of vision problems or eye diseases may allow you to prevent permanent damage, making eye exams even more important.
You may need to contact your child’s eye care provider if you notice certain things. These things include your child getting hit in the eye, fluid draining from the eye, a swollen eye, cross-eyes, or blinking or rubbing the eyes frequently. If your child is complaining about something in his or her eye or vision changes, these can also be signs.
Other Tips to Help Develop and Protect Healthy Eyesight
There are a number of things you can do throughout your child’s life in order to help them develop their eye health and protect it.
Limit Screen Time
Screen time includes computers, smart phones, television, and video games. Limiting screen time can help your child get enough physical activity, social interactions, and sleep throughout the day. You can work with your child’s pediatrician to create a plan for screen time. The daily limit will usually be one hour for children that are two to five. For children that are six years or older, the average is usually two hours. You can set limits on the different kinds of devices your child can use and where he or she can use them. It’s also important that all your caretakers enforce the screen time limits. When your child does have screen time, it’s important to protect your child’s eyes. Too much time on the screen can cause vision problems. Your child should take breaks from the screen every 20 minutes just as adults should.
Eating the Right Foods
You should be providing your kid with nutritious meals that include vegetables, fruits, and nuts. You should also be providing your child 12 ounces of fish per week. These foods contain key nutrients and antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, and lutein. These are all linked to eye heath. When feeding your child fish, you want to choose shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, catfish, or salmon. Some fish contain too much mercury, such as mackerel, tilefish, shark, and swordfish. You can get your child to eat nutritious foods by setting an example and eating the foods yourself. Eating right during pregnancy can help set your child up for vision success.
Wearing Eye Protection
You should encourage your child to wear eye shields, goggles, or safety glasses when doing an activity that increases the risk for an eye injury. Some of these activities include swimming, lacrosse, racquetball, and other high-contact sports. Your child should also wear sunglasses. Ultraviolet light is harmful so ski goggles in the winter and sunglasses year-round are important.
Preventing Eye Infections
Viruses, fungi, or bacteria can cause eye infections, but your child may need some help learning how to prevent eye infections. Teach your child to wash his or her hands. You should also wash your hands before you touch near your child’s eye. You should also encourage your child to not share eye drops and make sure that if your child needs eye drops, you know how to put them in correctly.
Protecting Your Child’s Vision
There are some first aid tips for eye injuries you should know in order to protect your child’s vision. If your child gets something in his or her eye and you aren’t sure what it is, be sure to flush the eye with water for 20 minutes and contact local poison control. Don’t stop flushing the eye until you are instructed otherwise. If your child is hit in the eye with a blunt object, check the eye closely. If your child can’t open the eyelid or it’s bleeding, get medical attention. You can use ice to prevent tissue damage and decrease pain and swelling. If your child’s eye is injured with a sharp object, you don’t want to press on the eye and instead cover the eye with a shield while you get medical attention. Don’t attempt to remove the sharp object.
Visit Florida Eye Specialists
Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute is a leader in eye health and can help you with your child’s vision needs, from routine eye exams to dealing with more serious eye conditions. Contact us today!