When do babies see colors? The research is ongoing, but we have a pretty good idea. Here, we break down the myths: when can newborns see color?
When do babies see colors?
And what colors do babies see first?
They’re common questions for curious mamas.
But you just might be barking up the wrong tree.
You may have heard that babies see in black and white. We’d heard that too.
Or perhaps you’re wondering can a 3-month-old see color? You’re not alone, mama.
But while babies do have quite a limited vision as they begin life (fair enough, they’ve just spent 9 months in a dark place), it might be that their vision is not quite as bad as we thought.
So, when do babies see color? The reality is: we don’t really know. It’s not like we can just ask them.
But we’ve done the legwork, and we’re here to dispel some myths about when babies see color.
In this article: 📝
- When do babies see color?
- How long do babies see black and white?
- What is the first color a baby sees?
- What can babies see?
When do babies see color?
So, when do babies start to see color, and when do babies see color clearly?
Although an infant’s color vision isn’t as sensitive as an adult’s, it is generally believed that babies have good color vision by around [5 months]9https://www.peanut-app.io/blog/5-month-old-baby) of age.
They say that newborn babies see in black and white – with some shades of gray.
It’s not until about 4 months that they start to be able to see color.
Or so the story goes.
However, recent studies have blurred this common conception of baby vision.
According to some research, for example, newborn babies can see large patches of red.
And they may be able to distinguish reds and greens from as early as 8 weeks, or roughly 2 months old.
However, it is really quite a difficult thing to test.
What these scientists are pretty much agreed on though is that, in the early days, the stronger the color, the more likely that baby will be able to see it.
Meanwhile, this ability develops over time, just like the rest of baby vision.
By 4 to 6 months, scientists reckon, babies will identify colors using the same five categories as adults do – namely, red, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
So, to answer the question, when does baby see color?, the answer is likely to be from birth.
But there’s still some research being carried out.
How long do babies see black and white?
As research is showing, it may not be true that babies see in black and white at all.
Instead, your baby’s vision might be a lot more sophisticated than we thought.
If you’re worried that it’s not, though, a doctor will be able to help you out.
If your infant doesn’t focus on things – or if their eyes do not seem to work together – this might point to a problem.
If it’s still the early days, though, it is usually nothing to worry about.
If in doubt, get a checkup!
But typically, no, it’s not true that newborns see in black and white exclusively.
Are newborns color blind?
As to the question, are babies born color blind, we don’t have a definite answer.
The term color blind is a bit of a misnomer ‒ people with color blindness tend to have difficulty distinguishing colors rather than being unable to see colors at all.
So, while baby’s eyes are developing, they may have a sort of color blindness in that, when shown similar shades of the same color, they may not be able to distinguish a difference between them.
If, by the time they’re around 8-12 months old, you’re concerned about color blindness, it’s best to check in with your healthcare provider.
There are a few potential signs of color blindness in children to be aware of, although they are only prevalent at an older age ‒ around 3-5 years old:
- Referring to colors as different colors (like ‘green’ for a blue ball).
- Hesitancy distinguishing colors when there are lots of colors together.
- Coloring objects the ‘wrong’ color ‒ like purple leaves on trees or brown sky.
- No interest in coloring activities
If your child does have difficulty distinguishing different colors, there are things you can do to help ‒ it’s best to check in with your doctor.
What is the first color a baby sees?
So what colors do babies see first?
All primary colors, but they might be now starting to see different shades more clearly.
Bright, bold, colors at different ends of the spectrum will generally be easier for baby to see for the first few months.
When choosing visual materials, toys, and books for your child, look for high contrast prints in bold colors.
Black and white just happen to be opposite ends of the spectrum, so they make a good choice for young babies and help draw their attention better than items with more subtle hues.
But red and green can work well, or blue and orange, purple and yellow, or bright colors on white backgrounds.
What colors can babies see at 1 month?
There is a myth that, from birth to 1 month, baby sees in black and white, like an old TV.
But this might not actually be the case ‒ they may be able to see all primary colors from birth, although they’ll find it easier to look at brighter, bolder colors and block shapes, rather than delicate works of art.
Sorry, mama, baby might not be very appreciative of Van Gogh’s post-impressionist style just yet.
Their sight also isn’t great at this point, so don’t be upset if they don’t react when you’re waving from across the room.
What colors can babies see at 2 months?
Since the latest studies suggest that baby can see colors from birth, they’ll be able to see pretty much all colors, but bright and different colors will be easier for them to spot.
Their eyesight won’t be 20:20 yet, either ‒ they’ll probably only be able to see clearly up to 18 inches, so keep things pretty close to their face if you want them to see!
Can a 3-month-old see color?
So what colors can babies see at 3 months?
The myth that babies see in black and white usually follows up with 3 months old being the point when babies’ color perception develops.
While it’s true that babies can see color more clearly at 3 months old, they’ve likely been able to see colors from birth.
However, as their eyes and their brain develop, they may start having color preferences at 3 months.
So it might look like baby’s seeing colors at 3 months, but they’re probably just exclaiming because they’ve decided that red is their favorite color.
What can babies see?
It makes sense that the world is a little blurry when babies take their first few glimpses of it.
While baby eyes develop after just four weeks of a mama’s pregnancy, they remain closed until about 26 weeks.
And, even when they do open their eyes, there’s not that much to see.
According to some estimates, a newborn’s visual capacity is 5% of the average adult’s.
And that tends to be limited to a distance of about 12 inches.
So, it’s fair to say eyesight isn’t your baby’s forte.
Conveniently, though, that 30cm is the distance between a mama’s face and her chest.
This means you can trust that your little one will be able to see you when you hold them.
Clearly, faces are pretty important.
From an early age, they are one of the few things that babies can focus on – when they have their eyes open at all.
What can a baby see at 3 months?
If at first, it’s a bit limited, baby vision development happens really quickly actually.
Within 3 months, your child will probably be able to recognize faces.
After 4 months, they usually start to track movement with their eyes – and see further than before.
Meanwhile, at around this time, their eyes will start to work together too, upping their depth perception and distance vision.
And then, amazingly, by about 6 months, your baby’s eyesight is likely to be pretty much as good as yours.
We told you things move quickly!
That’s all we know so far on when can babies see colors, and why it’s not true that babies see in black and white.
Think you have an idea about your little one’s favorite color?
Or maybe you’re after some inspo for brightly-colored baby toys to get their peepers going?
You’ll find community and support among our mamas on Peanut!