What your baby sees:
At birth, newborns have limited sight. To their eyes, the world looks like a blurry photo. "Newborns can clearly detect only things that are in very high contrast, such as black-and-white patterns," says Albert Yonas, M.D., a professor at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development.
Still, infants can process what little they do see almost instantly. "Within 24 hours after birth, you can put up a videotape of the mother's face and another face, and the baby will gaze at the familiar one," Dr. Kellman says.
A newborn's vision improves steadily as eye cells mature during the first two months of life. By 8 weeks, an infant is capable of discerning color and some detail. At around 4 months, he begins to develop binocular vision -- that is, the ability to focus with both eyes at once. This new skill gives him depth perception, which helps him learn to reach for objects.
By 6 months, a baby is able to notice features like shadows, shading, perspective, and relative size. Their new visual skills serve infants well, as they learn to crawl around this time. With the primary vision skills in place, the next six months are devoted to fine-tuning: A mature sense of sight is fully developed by the age of 1 year.
Boosting your baby's skills:
The best way for parents to encourage visual development in their baby is to interact with him. "A loving face is the best visual stimulation an infant can get," Dr. Yonas says.
High-contrast toys, such as blocks and mobiles with black-and-white or primary color patterns, also help stimulate visual development. And pictures of shapes and patterns have been found to engage the parts of the brain controlling vision. So don't hesitate to expose even a young baby to simple picture books.