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It's Black and White (Child Development Tip)

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

After the first couple of weeks I often see mums (and dads) start to feel uneasy about how to pass the (increasing amount of) awake time.

Having mastered the sleep, eat, poo routine parents then start hearing about sleep, eat, poo, PLAY, or was that PLAY, sleep, eat, poo, or maybe even PLAY, sleep, eat, PLAY, poo .... ahhh

But how do you "play" with a baby in the early weeks?

It's "Black and White"

Research shows us that newborn eyes and their visual system isn't fully developed, but that significant changes occur during the first few months.

Take a moment to think about what it must be like the first time a baby opens their eyes outside of their mothers womb... crazy thought hey?! So it's easy to realise that their eyes need to learn how to coordinate together, focus and recognise shapes and patterns, whilst committing them to memory for future recall. It's kinda mind blowing when you think how fast all of that develops in their little heads!

For the first 0-4 months their eyes are learning how to focus, initially only about 8-10 inches from their face, how to coordinate two eyes at the same time, and categorising the colours and shapes they are seeing. They obviously can't tell you that they are looking at a red ball, but the neurons are firing in their brain to ensure they can recall that visual information for a future time, when they will be able to tell you that its a red ball.

Interesting that I mentioned "red", it's a common myth that babies can initially only see in black and white, but research shows that red is also on their colour spectrum. The most important thing for them to build the necessary neuron pathways visually is contrast - this is where the common "black and white" advice comes from.

There is so much cool research about babies think, see and learn and if you'd like to totally geek out on it look at the Sussex University Baby Lab webpage.

So, one very fun thing you can do with your little one in the first few days and weeks is stimulate their vision with strong contrasting block colours. A great way to do this initially is to choose soft toys with strong black and white contrast, think penguins and zebras, the benefit of soft toy play is that it encourages language and sensory stimulation too.

But it's also fun to play around with printed cards and images, doubly good if you can create stories and dialogue as you play with them. I've created some quick ones for you to print out here to try.

but you can also find a good selection of free downloadable images at

I hope you have fun playing with your little one's as you help them to build their world. Let your imagination run wild, create stories of the bear, in the woods, on the sunny day, that tiptoed into a little house ... enjoy being young again and looking at things through their eyes (literally) as you help them to build those important neuron pathways that will develop over time.

You've got this!!!


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