Infant Vision Development

Newborn babies cannot see as well as children or adults because the eyes and visual system aren’t fully developed. It’s important to note that every child is unique and some may reach certain milestones at different ages. 

During the first month of life, the eyes begin to work together and vision improves rapidly. For the first 2 months of life, eye coordination is not well-developed and it’s common for an infant’s eyes to intermittently appear to wander or to be crossed. If an eye appears to constantly turn in or out, however, a prompt evaluation is warranted.

Up to approximately 3 months of age, an infant’s eyes do not focus on objects more than 8 to 10 inches from their face. By 3 months of age, babies should begin to track moving objects with their eyes and reach for items.

Between 5 to 8 months, eye movement control continues to improve. Depth perception (the ability to judge if objects are nearer or farther away than other objects) and colour vision begins to develop around 5 months of age. Most babies start to crawl at 8 months old, which helps to develop eye-hand-foot-body control.

Even if no eye or vision problems are apparent, babies should be brought for their first thorough eye examination at approximately 6 months. In Ontario, children are covered through OHIP for 1 eye exam per year until they reach 19 years of age.

– Dr. Emily Manning

Children’s Vision

Why are thorough vision examinations important?

Don’t assume your child has good vision because he or she passed a school vision screening . A 20/20 score means only that your child can see at 20 feet what he or she should be able to see at that distance. It does not measure any of the other vision skills needed for learning. Vision screenings are important, but they should not be substituted for a thorough eye health/vision examination. Tests for near sightedness, far sightedness, astigmatism, colour perception, lazy eye, crossed eyes, eye coordination, depth perception, and focusing ability are needed to help ensure that your child’s vision is ready for school.

Be alert for signs / symptoms that may indicate your child has a vision problem such as :

  • Frequently loses his or her place while reading
  • Avoids close work 
  • Holds reading material closer than normal
  • Has headaches
  • Squints or tilts his or her head frequently
  • Preforms below potential
  • Has trouble reading signs in the distance

Comprehensive eye exams are still covered by OHIP for children under the age of 20 years and this essential service should become a part of the back to school routine to ensure that children have clear, comfortable, and healthy vision.

– Dr. Dale Springer