Modern life has made your child most reliant on her visual sense. Vision is not merely her ability to see, it is also the ability of her eyes to distinguish details and detect similarity and differences between objects and light.
It is a survival sense. It makes her aware of what and who is in her environment. For example, her visual sense will detect the movement of a snake in the bush nearby.
It helps her remain safe. But it also helps her notice details in the world which make her performance in practical life fun and efficient.
For example, when she looks at a cup of juice her eyes inform her that it is tipping downward and needs to be levelled before the juice spills out.
Her vision also provides her with information about timing and space. When your child needs to catch a ball, her eyes will give her information about the speed the ball is moving.
This will guide her to move her hand at the right time to grasp it. It will also tell her where in space she should place her hands to catch the ball. For example, she may need to raise her hands above her head.
Read: “Make my little brothers eyes better”
This spatial information will also help further down the road, such as knowing how close to stand to a friend.
Problems you may see due to poor visual skills
Your child may:
1. Complain of regular headaches
2. Have difficulty placing drawings on her page in the correct direction; for example, she may draw a person upside down rather than on his feet as she intended
3. Find it difficult to understand what she reads because her ability to recall what she has seen is poor
4. Often reverse her items of clothing
5. Find it difficult to dress on her own as she becomes frustrated with trying to do up her buttons as her fingers and eyes don’t work together and she is unable to line up the buttonhole with the corresponding button
6. Often bump into moving objects such as friends, because her eyes don’t tell her about the movement around her.
Here are some activity ideas to help your baby grow her visual sense
0 to 12 months
See the world
There is no better classroom for the senses than the big outdoors. Allow your baby to lie on her back and watch the leaves on a tree sway in the wind.
Vary her position from time to time, for example, place her on her tummy on the grass. As your baby looks at everyday aspects of her world her sense of vision is being tickled by an array of textures, sizes, colours and forms.
When her hands are ready and able to grasp and explore things, provide her with space to crawl about in the garden in her nappy so her sense of touch allows her to enjoy her world.
Also read: Take care of your kids’ eyes
As your baby motors about her little hands feel her world and bring her mind to question what it is that is so soft, or rough, or slimy and the like. Her eyes are drawn to these items. She studies them and the next time she sees them she can recall their properties.
Tip: Allow time and repeated encounters with her touch and visual sense so she can build up her ability to recall images in her mind’s eye without it being physically available to her.
12 to 24 months
Spot the sock
Gather pairs of colourful and patterned socks together. Choose ones that provide a variety of visual details for your toddler to observe, such as spots, stripes and bright colours.
Grab as many socks as you both can hold and toss them into the air on the count of three. She will use her eyes to watch them fall, which will develop visual tracking that is necessary for writing and reading.
Draw her attention to certain socks by pointing to them and commenting on their colour, size and appearance. For example, “Look at the dark blue sock with the green spots lying under the chair.”
Once they have all landed ask her to identify the sock pairs and place them in a plastic bowl. You could set a timer for 3 minutes and see how many she finds. Help her and praise and encourage her as you hunt.
Tip: This is a great game to play when the washing has dried and needs to be packed away. Increase the challenge by using socks which are similar in appearance.
24 to 36+ months
In the late afternoon, when evaporation is minimised and the garden is begging for water, take your preschooler outside armed with the garden hose.
Line up a row of plastic bottles, the more the merrier, filled with interesting goodies gathered from the garden such as sand, water (add a drop of food colouring or some glitter), leaves, stones or feathers.
Place a stick on the grass to mark the point where your child needs to stand to start. This should be at least 1 to 2m away from the bottles. When your child is ready, with a hosepipe in hand, open the tap and let him fire away to knock over each bottle with his water gun.
Aiming to shoot the target develops his ability to fix his eyes and use both eyes together. Spraying the water at the target helps develop his eye-hand coordination.
Tip: Dress your child in swimming gear for this game so his clothes don’t get wet and be sure to apply sunscreen to his sensitive skin so that he doesn’t get sunburnt.
Eye tests for babies?
Yes! Vision defects in babies are difficult to pick up as you can’t have a talk with your baby about what he can see or not. That doesn’t mean his eyesight can’t be tested. It should be tested, as 1 in every 5 four-year-olds has an undetected visual disorder.
The first screening should take place as early as possible, and a new bit of technology makes this possible. The plusoptiX Vision Screener performs a non-invasive test that takes just seconds to do and provides accurate screening in children as young as six months.
The outcome is given as a simple “pass” or “refer” result, indicating whether a comprehensive eye examination by a paediatric ophthalmologist is necessary.
Ask your health care provider about it, as the device is popular with paediatricians, midwives and clinic nurses.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at [email protected] Anonymous contributions are welcome.
Don’t miss a story!
For a weekly wrap of our latest parenting news and advice sign up to our free Friday Parent24 newsletter.