How well can your child see?

A Child's Visual Milestones - How well can your child see?

Article provided by:  

Dr. Catherine Chiarelli,

Member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists Children's Vision Committee

How well does your baby see?  It may be hard to know.  Since infants and young children are unable to tell us about eyes, parents must watch a child for early signs of vision problems.  Reaching visual milestones on time is key to a child's development and school readiness, as well as life-long vision skills.

From birth to 1 month, babies should look briefly on bright lights or faces, although one or both eyes may wander out of position.  Black and white contrasts are most interesting to their vision at this age.

By age 1-3 months, babies will begin to watch their parent's face when being talked to.  Their eyes will follow moving objects and will look towards new sounds.  Primary colours and lights are best to view at this age.

Between ages 3-5 months, many visual skills begin to develop, including focusing, teaming, 3D vision and colour.  Children will begin to reach for nearby objects and to look at items held in their hands.

Eye-hand co-ordination continues to develop between ages 5-7 months.  The eyes should be straight most of the time by this age.  Babies also begin to look for objects and people around the room. At this age, parents are asked to take their child in for an eye exam by an optometrist. The optometrist will check and see if the eyes are working together and if they are healthy.

Many eye skills reach full potential by age 7-12 months, and babies will use their vision to locate and crawl towards objects of interest.  Longer periods of attention to books and/or tv also are shown.  They will try to match smiling and waving.

By age 12-18 months, babies are using their eyes even more.  They often will play hide-and-seek or peek-a-boo. They will point to pictures in books and match shapes.   Using their eyes and hands, they will build a tower of up to 4-5 cubes, and make circles with a crayon.

Drawing improves between ages 18 months - 2 years.  Children begin to hold a crayons with an adult grasp. They will make up and down strokes easily.  As walking gets better, children are able to move easily across changes in flooring (carpet to floor, stairs, etc.).

By age 2-3 years, children begin to run, jump, hop, and skip with fewer trips or falls.  By this age, their eyes and hand are working together better. They are ready to build a tower of 10 cubes, copy a circle, and begin to cut paper with scissors. Children should be having their eyes checked again by an eye doctor. They need good clear vision to do well in school.

By age 4-5 years, children will be able to draw simple forms, print letters, colour within lines, cut and paste simple shapes.  They also will show visual skills by telling about places, objects or people they see.

While all the age ranges given above are a guide, any major delay should be reported and book an eye exam as soon as possible.  The earlier the check-up the better to help your child.

In Ontario, eye exams by optometrists (eye doctor) are covered by OHIP for all children up to 19 years of age. Bring your child's Health Card to the exam. 

The Ontario Association of Optometrists is also providing one pair of free glasses to Junior Kindergarten students along with their eye exam. The program is offered until June 30, 2016 for any child who is aged 4 years of age. To find an optometrist and for more information, please visit www.EyeSeeEyeLearn.ca.

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