When Can Babies See Color? Plus, Related Milestones (2024)

Young babies are capable of seeing colors, but their brains may not perceive them as clearly or vividly as older children and adults do. The first primary color your baby can see is red, and this happens a few weeks into life.

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Your baby is absorbing their surroundings during each waking moment. All the sights, sounds, and smells delight their senses and help them learn about the world and their place in it.

And while you may be tempted to surround your baby with a rainbow of colors, tiny newborns may be more enticed by bold black-and-white prints.

Here’s more about your baby’s ability to see color, which colors they see first, and what signs may indicate a condition like color blindness.

Babies can tell the difference between light and dark when they’re in the womb. This is why young babies may enjoy books or other prints that feature contrasting black-and-white images. However (and contrary to popular belief), babies don’t only see in black and white as newborns.

Young babies are indeed capable of seeing colors, but their brains may not perceive them as clearly or vividly as older children and adults do. The first primary color your baby can see is red, and this happens a few weeks into life.

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 do make a good choice for young babies and help draw their attention better than items with more subtle hues.

Related: When do newborn babies start to see?

It’s not just colors that your newborn doesn’t see clearly. After birth, your baby’s vision is quite blurry.

Your little one can best focus on things that are 8 to 10 inches away from their eyes, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). This means your baby can see your face if you’re holding them, but they may have trouble making out another face across the room.

By 8 weeks old, the AOA says, your baby’s vision improves enough that they can more clearly see your face and another face (or object) nearby.

That said, shifting focus between two objects is still difficult. You may even notice that their eyes cross or don’t work perfectly as a team, but that’s considered to be fine at this early age.

Related: When do babies’ eyes change color?

Babies begin to perceive colors more and more between 2 and 4 months old. To start, they’re able to tell the difference between shades of greens and reds. The exact timing for when your baby will see these colors is individual, so there’s no set week or month when it happens for all babies universally.

Encourage your child’s development by providing toys and books with bold colors. In particular, your child may enjoy bright primary or rainbow shades — red, orange, green, blue, etc. — versus more muted hues.

Related: How our eyes grow and change as we get older

By 5 months old, the AOA explains, babies can see most colors.

They still don’t see the hues quite as vividly as adults do, but other key features of vision are also developing at this time. These include your child’s:

  • depth perception
  • eye-body coordination
  • binocular vision (ability of their eyes to work together)

Even so, it’s difficult to know if your child is able to see colors at this age because their communication skills are also still forming. All this development is a lot of hard work, that’s for sure!

It won’t be until your child starts talking — and then learning the words to describe and identify colors — that you’ll truly know what they’re seeing.

Related: Get ready for all these precious first-year milestones

Color blindness is a condition where a person cannot distinguish between certain colors. It doesn’t necessarily mean your child can’t see any colors, though. The most common colors impacted are red and green, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS).

While rare, there is a more severe form of color blindness called achromatopsia. With this condition, children see only shades of gray.

You may or may not notice symptoms of color blindness with babies. Your little one is likely still learning to assign the correct labels to colors, so incorrectly calling a crayon red when it’s blue isn’t necessarily a sign.

As your child gets older (think toddler or preschooler), early signs may include things like:

  • using incorrect words to describe colored objects (for example, saying leaves on a tree are brown instead of green)
  • coloring pictures using “incorrect” colors for common objects (like purple sky or orange grass)
  • difficulty distinguishing between red and green crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc.
  • having keen night vision
  • having a keen sense of smell
  • experiencing light sensitivity
  • having more difficulty distinguishing colors in low light or when many colors are clustered together
  • having a lack of interest in coloring books or coloring worksheets
  • experiencing a headache or irritation when looking at red images or text on a green background

Color blindness is more common in those assigned male at birth — around 1 in 12 men (and 8 percent of white males) may be affected by some form of color blindness. By contrast, only around 0.5 percent of those assigned female at birth experience a degree of color blindness.

Related: What causes color blindness?

Contact your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns about your little one’s vision or ability to see color.

The doctor can help you understand the different milestones for vision and assess whether or not your baby is developing on track. If the doctor has concerns, they may refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist for further evaluation.

Also make an appointment with an eye doctor if your child has:

  • family history of vision issues or eye diseases (lazy eye, crossed eyes, nearsightedness, astigmatism, retinoblastoma, etc.)
  • atypical vision behavior
  • signs of distress or discomfort related to vision
  • certain health conditions (being born prematurely, Down Syndrome, neurofibromatosis, pediatric arthritis)
  • developmental, behavioral, or learning issues that may relate to vision

Regardless, the AOA recommends that all children have an optometric examination before beginning school — and sometimes earlier. Ophthalmologists can identify any issues with your child’s overall vision, as well as any eye diseases or conditions as well as color blindness or deficiencies they may have.

Other guidelines, such as those from the AAPOS and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend eye exams and vision screenings during childhood but not necessarily before starting school and not necessarily by an optometrist. Most of the time, these exams can be done in your pediatrician’s office as part of a general well visit.

It’s always a good idea to speak with your child’s pediatrician to determine what’s best for them.

Related: What do colorblind people see?

There’s no proven treatment to address all forms of color blindness.

In certain cases, a doctor may suggest color blindness–correcting glasses that help improve a person’s ability to distinguish between colors. Speak with a pediatrician or ophthalmologist to see if this treatment is an option for your child.

The good news is that color blindness doesn’t have to be a severe limitation. Instead, it takes some adaptation and — over time — your child may learn to identify colors by shade or brightness versus hue.

The AAPOS suggests labeling crayons and other art supplies to help your child tell between them. Supply written materials in black and white when possible for easy reading. And work on teaching your child the colors of common objects so they’ll have a reference point when discussing colors with their peers.

It’s a colorful world, and your baby is soaking in more of it with each passing day. As your little one grows, practice naming the objects and colors in their environment to help them develop their vocabulary and word association.

Colorful toys might include blocks, crayons, puzzles, rainbow stackers, or anything else where each color is represented on a different piece or part.

But don’t worry if your baby isn’t labeling colors correctly just yet — that milestone isn’t reached until somewhere between ages 2 and 3. Focus (no pun intended) on the developmental milestones along the way.

When Can Babies See Color? Plus, Related Milestones (2024)


When Can Babies See Color? Plus, Related Milestones? ›

Babies can see bright colors within the first few weeks of life, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology Opens a new window (AAO) Trusted SourceAmerican Academy of OphthalmologyVision Development

Vision Development
Infant vision concerns the development of visual ability in human infants from birth through the first years of life. The aspects of human vision which develop following birth include visual acuity, tracking, color perception, depth perception, and object recognition.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Infant_visual_development
: Newborn to 12 MonthsSee All Sources, but they likely don't detect differences in shades of color until they're ...

At what age do babies start seeing color? ›

At about 1 month, your little one can detect the brightness and intensity of colors, and over the next few months may start to see several basic colors, including red. Your baby's color vision is fully developed by about 4 months, when they'll be able to see lots of colors and even shades of colors.

What are the milestones for babies colors? ›

12 to 18 months: start to notice that objects come in different colors. One-year-olds may show a preference for certain colors. For instance, your toddler may specifically choose a green ball from a basket full of colored balls. 18 to 24 months: begin to learn color words.

What age can you see all colors? ›

You should immediately be suspicious if there are any colour blind men on the mother's side of the family – these could be uncles, great uncles, cousins and grandfathers. By age 5 children with normal colour vision will be able to identify all of the groups of colours in a couple of seconds.

Can 2 months old see color? ›

Babies begin to perceive colors more and more between 2 and 4 months old. To start, they're able to tell the difference between shades of greens and reds. The exact timing for when your baby will see these colors is individual, so there's no set week or month when it happens for all babies universally.

What does a 2 month old vision look like? ›

Eyesight development in babies 2 to 3 months old

At this age, some babies may start to recognize faces (and treat you to a first smile) — but their sight is still fairly blurry. Babies can typically start to see some colors at this age too.

What colors to teach first? ›

If you are confused about what colours to teach to pre-schoolers first, you can start with basic colours like red, blue, yellow, and green, and then add in more colour names as your little ones get more comfortable.

What age counts to 10? ›

Though every child is different, most toddlers will be able to count to 10 by the time they are two-years-old. At this point in time they are probably repeating them mostly by memory and have yet to understand what they actually mean. This concept is known as “rote” counting.

What colors can babies see at 3 months? ›

By 3 to 4 months: Most babies can focus on a variety of smaller objects and tell the difference between colors (especially red and green).

What is the first color a baby sees? ›

Newborns can see contrast between black and white shapes. The first primary color they are able to distinguish is red. This happens in the first few weeks of life. Babies can start to notice differences in shades of colors, particularly between red and green, between 3 and 4 months old.

When do babies see faces? ›

By around 8 weeks of age, most babies can easily focus on their parents' faces. Around 3 months, your baby's eyes should be following things around. If you waggle a brightly colored toy near your baby, you should be able to see their eyes tracking its movements and their hands reaching to grab it.

Should an 18 month old know colors? ›

Your child's ability to recognize different colors improves around 18 months – the same time they begin to notice similarities and differences in shape, size, and texture. It will be a while longer before they know basic colors, but most children can name at least one by 36 months.

How long do babies see black and white? ›

Just after birth, a baby sees only in black and white, with shades of gray. As the months go by, they will slowly start to develop their color vision at around 4 months. So you're not imaging it when you see your baby fixate on your face and eyes, especially during a feeding, when your face is about a foot away.

Should a 2 year old know colors? ›

Between the ages of 2 to 3 years old, children begin to learn the names of colors. It's necessary to remember that every child develops at their own pace, and some may only be able to name colors once they are closer to 4 years old. Signs of progress include correctly naming at least three colors.

What three colors can babies see easily at first? ›

By 8 weeks old, babies can reliably tell the difference between red and white, as well as light blue, and some greens. But they still struggle with yellow as well as certain shades of purple. A child's color vision continues maturing throughout infancy and early childhood.

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