The way a baby’s eyes open to the world for the first time is likely one of your sweetest memories. As your baby blinks slowly, you may wonder, like many parents before you, whether they can see colors, shapes, and if they know who you are.

Just like they have to learn to talk and walk, babies also have to learn to see. Day after day, their eyes provide them with countless opportunities to discover the world, taking them from the initial days of blurriness to understanding forms and colors.

Baby vision: A quick timeline

0 to 3 months

Shortly after being born, your baby focuses on objects that are 8 to 10 inches away, according to the American Optometric Association. Most often that is your face. In fact, your baby prefers gazing at your face even when presented with other subjects.

During the first weeks of life, babies are not able to move their eyes between two objects. But they are able to focus on an object that is heavily contrasted, like a chessboard, or any black and white pattern.

While contrasting tones can keep a baby interested, the ability to see more of them increases as the vision-related nerve cells in the retina and brain develop. Keeping baby stimulated with colorful books and toys is not only great entertainment, but also a necessary development experience.

During this stage you’ll notice that your baby is crossed-eyed occasionally. Take heart, it’s all part of learning to see. Baby’s eyes are not yet well-coordinated but by the end of the first three months, most babies will be able to follow an object with both eyes. By the end of their first year they will have mastered that completely.

Tips for parents:

  • Decorate the nursery with contrasting patterns and colors.
  • Make it a habit to show your baby various colorful things as you hold them.

Get close enough to your baby’s face so they can see your features as you speak and smile.

4 to 8 months

By now your baby will be able to see more in-depth and a few feet away, compared to inches at birth. They will be discovering their hands and focusing on objects they can hold in front of their eyes. This is the beginning of the very important hand-eye coordination process.

As their vision develops, your baby might try to pull him or herself up by grabbing objects in their crib. Make sure you remove baby mobiles or other hanging toys to prevent accidents.

Tips for parents:

  • Read with your baby. Though babies love people the most, reading and looking at books with big colorful pictures is a great way to exercise the newly developed vision skills and learn words.

8 months to 1 year

Encourage your baby to crawl rather than walk right away. Crawling improves their hand-eye coordination greatly, a vital tool as they grow up.

Point to various objects your baby sees as they crawl around the house. This will help them store information that allows them to learn to talk.

Close to their first birthday, babies grasp smaller objects between their thumb and forefinger, which requires a great deal of fine-tuned movements and focus. Make sure to remove potential choking objects from baby’s reach!

Your baby’s ability to judge distances and throw objects is also improved. This is why they love throwing objects and having you return them so they can throw them again. This fetching game helps them learn about falling objects and distances.

Can babies see colors?

Their world is black, white, and gray at birth. After a few weeks of life, they are able to see red objects and by the time they reach three months, they can see the whole spectrum of colors.

Make sure to name colors as you point to them.

No smoking please!

Pregnant mothers should avoid smoking or exposure to secondhand smoking. Research shows an increased risk of infant eye disorders in babies who were exposed to the toxic substances in cigarette smoke before birth. Smoking also increases the risk of premature birth, which is a risk factor in itself for your baby’s eye development.