Your new baby cannot focus properly on objects more than a few inches away, and it will take months for his visual system to develop fully. However, from the moment an infant is born, he is exploring the world with his eyes. His developing eyesight provides him with information that stimulates his motor and cognitive development, and this will enable him to learn to grasp objects, sit up, crawl and walk.
A newborn's colour vision is thought to be less sensitive than an adult's, improving rapidly as the infant's nervous system matures. For the first month of life, your baby can see large coloured patterns as long as the colours in them have enough contrast, but he will have more difficulty distinguishing between subtle colour differences.
Black and white patterns present the highest possible contrast to the eye, and are therefore the most visually appealing and easiest for newborns and young babies to see.
According to the article "What Can My Baby See?" published on The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute website, research shows that two-week-old babies have a degree of colour vision, and can tell the difference between a red object and a green object even if the colours are at the same level of brightness.
As the weeks go by, an infant develops the ability to distinguish between less contrasting colour shades, and by about two months of age, contrast sensitivity is probably almost as good as an adult's. According to the American Optometric Association, it is thought that babies have good colour vision by around five months of age, and they may begin to show a preference for certain colours, such as red and blue.
Popular toys for young babies include rattles, teethers, board and cloth books, cot mobiles, fabric toy shapes and blankies. Even better if they are decorated with brightly contrasting colours, and black and white patterns. Here are some of our favourites:
This friendly bug is a hugely popular Lamaze developmental toy, boasting 5 out of 5 stars and hundreds of glowing reviews from Amazon UK. Made from brightly-coloured, highly-contrasting patterned fabrics to stimulate an infant's vision, Freddie also squeaks, makes crinkly noises when touched and has a peek-a-boo mirror to keep your little one entertained.
Freddie the Firefly has eye-catching black and white spots and stripes on the backs of his wings, and he can easily be attached to a pushchair, car seat or high chair.
Faces are a newborn baby's preferred source of visual stimulation, and Baby's Very First Book:Faces, by John Fordham is designed with this in mind. This short but effective book includes black and white images of faces, along with high-contrast patterns. Made from soft cloth, it doesn't matter if the book gets chewed (books made from board can quickly get ruined by chewing) and it can be sponge cleaned if it gets dirty.
The book's crinkly pages and front page mirror provide additional sensory stimulation, and the sewn on Velcro strap safely attaches the book to the pushchair when out and about.
This friendly-faced Lamaze zebra soft toy rattle makes a gentle rattling noise when shaken, and is easy for tiny hands to grasp. What's more, if a child accidentally hits himself on the head with it, it won't hurt because the rattle is nice and soft. It's also nice to chew on!
The zebra has an easily visible high-contrast black and white pattern on one side, and bright colours on the other to engage your little one's attention. Your baby will love to feel the zebra's mane and tail, which are made from red ribbons.