Original blog in Mandarin (11th August 2017) by Zhao Yiqing
“The world of the newborn babies are blurry and in shades of grey. Based on visual excitation theory, exposing 0-3 years old babies to black and white stimulation cards can promote visual nerve development, enhance their IQ etc…”- an extract from a black and white stimulation card advertisement.
The newborns of some mammals, such as giraffes, horse and dolphins, can live independently as soon as they are born. Whereas newborns of human and other primates, our pets (cats and dogs) rely on parental care for a period before they can even walk on their own.
You might ask, why the different survival strategies? Surely being independent as soon as possible triumph the long parental care period? Well, mammals that need parental care before complete maturity survives better because they produce fewer babies, and with the protection from parents, their survival rate is higher. What’s more, the long gestation period also ensures that babies have a longer learning process and time to develop greater brain capacity.
Vision undergoes rapid development after birth
The different development process for human babies after birth is complex, and each development takes time. Take vision for example, a newborn baby sees the world in a blur and shades of grey. When they reach 3-months-old, they began to differentiate objects within 30 cm and view the world in 3-dimensional eyes. This is about the distance from the baby’s face to yours while breastfeeding.
Six-months-old baby’s eyes have the visual acuity of 20/400. And when they reach a year old, they can gradually differentiate the distance between objects. Because of the rapid development in baby’s vision, it is reasonable to assume that providing the ‘right’ stimulation will help the development of baby’s visual ability.
Is Black and White stimulation cards the right stimuli? NO!
According to developmental psychology textbooks, the effectivity of using ‘Black and White stimulation cards’ did not correlate much to improving baby’s visual acuity. Since their language skills are limited, scientists used the length the baby’s eyes stayed on an object to test the visual interest of the baby. The first study showed that babies are most interested in:
- Human’s face
- Circular objects
Different colours do not hold the baby’s interest for long (R.L. Fantz, 1963, p.125). A further study showed that babies prefer to look at objects and two colours – black and white (Salapatek & Kessen, 1966, p. 125). These studies still do not mean that using black and white cards can stimulate visual development.
A more recent study (2014) on human expression showed that 2-3 days old newborns could perceive different human expressions (whether it’s happy, angry, surprised or neutral) if these faces were presented to the newborns within 30 cm distance (again – the distance between your face and baby’s while breastfeeding).
All these studies indicate that newborns respond to diverse human’s face, not black and white stimulation cards! So, if you want to stimulate your newborns with the goal to promote his/her visual acuity and development, the scientifically supported advice would be staying close to your baby’s face (within 30 cm) while expressing your emotions!
Human’s face and Nature are the best stimulants for your baby’s vision
To fully stimulate your infant’s vision development, bring your baby out into nature. Whether it is a green park or by the ocean, nature contains minute details (in colour, in shapes, movements) that man-made toys failed to replicate. In nature, babies are exposed to 360 degrees of visual stimulations, and even if its the same park, the stimulations are different from day to day, season to season.
Being outdoor not only improves vision development, but it also improves your child’s immunity, reduces allergies risks, and best of all, an effective prevention towards developing myopia in their later years!
Often, the most valuable, effective way to help with baby’s health and development is free, overlooked gifts from family members and nature.
- Schickedanz JA, Schickedanz DI, Forsyth PD & Forsyth GA (1998). Understanding Children and Adolescents. (3rd Ed.-revised). MA: Allyn and Bacon.
- von Hofsten O, von Hofste C, Sulutvedt U, Laeng B, Brennen T & Magnussen S. (2014) Stimulating newborn face perception. Journal of Vision 14(13): 16 DOI:10.1167/14.13.16