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Sensory Development: Visual Contrast

For the first six months of a child’s life they can’t see the full spectrum of colours that adults do. In fact, for the first three months they primarily see in shades of black, grey and white.

Babies’ ability to fully see in colour develops through repeated stimulation, so ensuring your little ones’ eyes are working to their best ability is essential for their developmental progress.

Aside from their main caregiver’s face, the most fascinating thing to a baby is high-contrast patterns (such as a black & white checkerboard). For a young baby similar colours, such as red and pink or blue and purple, are difficult to distinguish from one another. Because of this, high-contrast designs and bright primary colours will attract a baby’s attention more than anything else. This will aid their brain development as they work on distinguishing colours, so make sure they are surrounded by bright, stark contrasts from the start. While it might look slightly headache-inducing to some adults, it’s perfect for babies!

Photo by David Bartus from Pexels

So how best can you facilitate the visual development of your Early Years?

  1. Cooked rice sensory play – spread some cooked (and cooled) rice on a black surface such as a tray or mat. Encourage the children to play with the rice on the dark surface, creating visual contrast while they enjoy a fun, sensory experience!
  2. Monochrome sensory cards — enable children to visually explore by using flashcards. You can find a great option here. Start by holding one steady about 12 inches from the child’s face. Watch their eyes to see them focus on it and only change images once they lose interest and turn away (this could be after a few seconds or a few minutes). Start with more simple images and eventually move on to more complex ones as their eyes grow stronger. Moving the cards slowly from side to side also help promote the child’s visual tracking skills.
  3. Black & white books – while so many baby books are full of bright colours, you can help develop their eyesight even when reading with books like Magnificent Animals Above & Below The Ocean.
  4. Decorate your baby room! Your Early Years’ environment can stimulate their brains even during tummy time with fun monochrome accessories like this play mat.
  5. Sensory toys — this newborn sensory bag from Etsy contains sensory ribbons and a scarf to entertain your little ones with contrasting monochrome.
Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash

Of course, you’re not stuck with just black and white. By around two months babies can differentiate between green and red and, around four to five months, blue and yellow.

80% of newborn babies’ information intake is visual, so surrounding the babies in your care with images that will encourage their visual development is vital. It means that the nerve cells are stimulated more regularly, leading to faster brain growth. Research has shown that babies surrounded by more of the right kind of stimulation tend to reach developmental milestones faster.