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The Development of Color Vision in Infants

by Stacey Chaloux

When infants are born, their vision has not fully developed, and their vision will go through several changes during the first few months of life. One of those changes is your baby's ability to see and distinguish among different colors. At first, she will be attracted to black and white patterns, but by the time she is 5 months old, her color vision will have developed fully, according to the American Optometric Association.

Black and White Patterns

At birth, a baby's pupils are constricted because his eyes are very sensitive to light. According to HealthyChildren.org, by the time he is two weeks old, his pupils will begin to enlarge so that he can experience more shades between light and dark. His retina will also develop, which will increase his ability to see and recognize patterns. Because of this, a newborn will look longest at black-and-white pictures or high-contrast patterns. The greater contrast in a pattern, the more this contrast will attract his attention.

Bright Colors

Although many nurseries are decorated in soft pastels, infants do not fully appreciate this because they tend to prefer bright, bold colors. The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that at 1 month of age, babies are sensitive to brightness and color intensity. For this reason, your little one will look longer at bright, bold colors. According to HealthyChildren.org, if you show your baby identical objects in red, yellow, and blue, she will look at the red one the longest. Although doctors aren't sure why infants are attracted to red, doctors believe that it might be the brightness of red that makes babies want to look at it.

Color Vision Developed

As your baby's vision continues to develop, his color vision will improve at the same rate. By 2 months, his color vision will not be as sensitive as that of an adult, so he will not be able to distinguish between two related colors, such as green and turquoise. By the time your baby is 5 months old, he will have good color vision, according to the American Optometric Association. By this time, he will respond to a full range of colors and their many shades.

What You Can Do

To help stimulate your baby's color vision development, keep in mind what she will be most attracted to. For the first month, show her books and toys with high-contrast patterns, and black and white pictures. The books "White on Black" by Tana Hoban or "Baby Animals Black and White" by Phyllis Limbacher Tildes have simple pictures you can show your baby or to prop in front of her while she does tummy time. As her color vision continues to develop, show her toys in bright, bold colors like red, and move them slowly in front of her eyes to help her follow an object with her eyes. Hang brightly colored or high-contrast objects from her activity mat as she learns to reach and grab at items.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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