Early Visual Stimulation in Infants & Small Babies

February 26, 2015 Published by

In a fascinating guest post, the founders of colourful children’s art company Witty Doodle  explain why early visual stimulation in infants is so important to the development of their vision. 

A range of child development experts cite visual stimulus as a first step in helping babies and toddlers grow and mature creatively, intellectually and emotionally. Vision is the most complex sensory system in the human body, yet the least mature at birth. Though newborns have the anatomical structures needed for sight, it takes infants time and exposure to visual stimuli to learn and develop the properties necessary for full calibration of their visual system. Children gain visual perception and more refined acuity of vision over the course of many months, often at varying rates depending on stimuli.

The importance of visual stimulation in infants

Bold bright colours are ideal for visual stimulation in infantsThe neurological connections of your baby’s developing vision become functional not long after birth.  Visual stimulation – shapes, colours, patterns and varying light intensity –  helps aid development of the lateral geniculate nucleus (helping to focus baby’s attention on important information) and the striate cortex (a growing child’s main receiving area for visual signals) in the first few months of life.

Your newborn’s visual acuity improves quickly through the first year of life before slowing gradually.  Children reach full maturity of their developing vision at five or six years old.  A typical child will not approach 20/20 vision until six to 30 months of age, as it takes time after a full-term birth for baby’s photoreceptors, synapses in the inner retinal layers, and visual pathways to calibrate and mature.  A child’s foveal cones (the part of the eye that controls fine vision) do not reach adult appearance until four months after term birth, and visual pathways continue to develop until approximately two years of age.

According to Child Psychology Specialist Dr Amanda Gummer, children deprived of visual stimulation may have lasting neurological deficits and face disadvantages in many areas of development. Babies that receive powerful visual stimulation from colours, shapes and patterns show more robust brain growth and faster visual development. They also experience improved physical, emotional and cognitive development, which helps promote curiosity and an interest in exploring their world.

The Effect of Colours on Emotional and Intellectual Development

Research by Daggett and Cobble (2008) found that young children attracted to warm, bright colours had increased attention spans and levels of brain activity.  Colours were also found to stimulate or reduce hormone production and alpha brain wave activity, producing strong psychological and physiological influences, especially on emotions and feelings.

As babies develop, they rely on exposure to visual stimulus and cues to aid memory. Familiar visual stimuli are beneficial in reassuring a baby, and more distinctive visual stimuli provide specific cues and associations. These distinctive and familiar visual stimuli have powerfully emotional and lasting effects.

Visual Stimulus in Developing Creativity and Learning

stimulating-nursery-canvasses-prints-octopusS.M. Skinner, author of “Creative Activities for the Early Years” (2007), stresses the importance of a visually stimulating environment for children to encourage creativity.  Visual materials that reflect a wide range of cultures and incorporate sound, textures and imaginative media– led by parental participation and interaction—are especially beneficial.

Scholars like Bernadette Duffy, author of “Supporting Creativity and Imagination in the Early Years”  (Open University Press, 2006), espouses exposing children at an early age to activities and objects “rich in creative and imaginative opportunities” to promote “skills, attitudes and knowledge that will benefit all areas of their learning and development.” She stresses creative development in children as the touchstone for intelligence itself, and critical for the ability to adapt more easily to changing circumstances through life by tapping imagination.

As children grow into the early preschool years, maturation of visual acuity helps to refine hand, eye, and body coordination and fine motor skills necessarily to begin reading.  Children can follow along as their parents read, pointing out the words for the children to follow along.  The process of learning, creativity, and even emotional well being in babies and toddlers traces back to visual development, reinforced by shapes, colours, and visual stimulus.



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This post was written by Fundamentally Children

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