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Through a Child's Eyes

Part 6 of a 6-part series on optical health

Published online: May 24, 2019 Healthy Vision Series with Dr. Dan Nielson, Articles
Viewed 912 time(s)

It may surprise you to find out that your newborn baby can barely see you. When I first learned this around the time our first boy was born I was alarmed that he had such poor vision. This is because vision is a learned process and develops during the first few years of life.

Sight for newborns appears like shadows in shades of gray until about 3 months of age. Then color and binocular vision comes and by 6 months, things are still a little fuzzy, but much clearer and easier to identify. At 1 year of age everything should be clear and easy to see.

However, infants and toddlers can have vision problems that could interfere with their overall development if not caught and treated properly. For example, your child could have a condition called lazy eye (amblyopia), a turned eye or crossed eyes (strabismus), cancer of the eye (retinoblastoma), farsightedness or nearsightedness.

The only way to find out how well your child is seeing, or if there is any underlying disease, is with a thorough eye exam. Early detection can prevent permanent vision loss, and in the case of retinoblastoma, it could save your child’s life. In addition, half of the children with lazy eye in this country go undetected because they have never had a complete eye exam.

You may be wondering how we can check your baby’s vision. That is a great question, and there are a variety of different ways to check. One of the simplest is using a light to measure the reflex coming directly off the eyes. No feedback is needed to get an accurate glasses prescription!

If you notice that one eye turns in or out or that your baby doesn’t seem to respond to visual activity, schedule an exam immediately. Otherwise you should schedule your baby’s first eye exam at 6 months of age.

Thanks to Johnson & Johnson and the American Optometric Association there is a special program called InfantSEE which provides a no-charge vision assessment for all infants under 1 year of age. You can find an InfantSEE provider by visiting:

Just as going to the dentist or a well child check is routine, vision exams should be the same. The next eye exam should be at 3 years and then again before entering school. For your school-age children, they should have an eye exam every year. Vision is often overlooked and has a large impact on a child’s overall development.

For more information, here are a few educational websites which would be good to visit: (College of Optometrists in Vision Development),, (American Optometric Association) and

Abnormal Signs to Look for in Infants and Toddlers:

  • One eye seems to turns in or out
  • Squinting or closing one eye
  • Doesn’t respond to visual stimuli
  • Difficulty following moving objects

Activities for Proper Vision Development in Babies

  • Place toys within focus of your baby’s eyes—only 8 to 12 inches away.
  • Talk to your baby as you move around the room to encourage him or her to follow you visually around the room.
  • Hang a mobile above or outside your baby’s crib.
  • Give your baby toys to hold and look at.
  • Use colors that have contrast especially whites, blacks, and reds.
  • Make sure your baby is following moving objects with his or her eyes.

Dr. Dan Nielson provides specialized services in the diagnosis and treatment of vision problems that interfere with reading and learning and also does orthokeratology. For more information visit his website:


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