Parents often look forward to important milestones in their child’s development such as their first steps or first word. They work to encourage their baby to crawl, sit up, or roll over. What parents may not realize is that many of the foundational skills needed to reach these milestones are visual in nature. Visual skills are an essential part of an infant’s early development.
Why do visual skills matter?
Visual skills are important for learning in all areas, as babies frequently learn from imitation. Age-appropriate visual abilities are necessary for a child to see parents or siblings doing something and want to try it out for themselves. Visual skills also provide the motivation for motor milestones like walking or crawling. Babies are usually motivated to move by looking at a favorite toy or seeing a parent waiting with outstretched arms. Without being enticed by what they see, infants are less likely to explore their environment and develop important motor and coordination skills as they do.
Visual skills are closely related to motor skills in other ways, as they allow babies to see and discover their own bodies. Babies then use this connection between their eyes and their bodies to do important things like picking up and holding objects, planning movements, and developing body awareness. New movements allow a child to be in different positions, which in turn causes a change in perspective that further develops visual skills and provides new sensory experiences. Visual and motor skills continually build on each other and connect in important ways throughout early development.
Vision also plays an essential role in the development of cognitive and social skills. Concepts like object permanence (understanding that objects are still there even when they can’t be seen) come from being able to look at and play with objects. Social skills begin to develop when a child can see that there is someone who they want to interact with in his or her environment.
How can I support my child’s visual development?
Infants need opportunities to explore the world around them and practice the visual skills they are trying to develop. The chart below outlines the visual milestones that you should see at each age and activities that you can do to encourage visual development.
Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s visual or visual motor development, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-332-9439.
Aubrey Day, Occupational Therapy Student Intern
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2009). Babies should sleep on their backs, play on stomachs.
American Optometric Association. (2020a). Infant vision: Birth to 24 months of age.
American Optometric Association. (2020b) Ways to help infant vision development.
Folio, M.R. and Fewell, R.R. (2002). Peabody Motor Development Chart.
The Urban Child Institute. (2012). Seeing the importance of visual development.
Photo credit: allaboutvision.com