Standing in the baby section of a bookstore, you might notice that there are a lot of books with nothing but black and white images in them. They may seem uninteresting to adults, but not to a newborn. And there’s a reason for this.
Studies show that newborns prefer to look at high-contrast black and white images because their eyes aren’t very well developed yet. Without getting too scientific, the rods and cones (i.e. the structures of the retina that perceive color) have not matured enough for infants to perceive colors like red, blue, or yellow. It won’t be until about 3 or 4 months that a baby even begins to see the entire spectrum of colors.
Another interesting point to note is that newborns can see only about 12 inches from their face. This will change over time, of course, but that’s also why bold patterns in addition to high-contrast images are so appealing for young ones. Experts say that exposing newborns to high-contrast shapes and patterns may encourage cognitive development, stimulate the development of optic nerves, stretch their attention span and increase memory.
Experts say that exposing newborns to high-contrast shapes and patterns may encourage cognitive development, stretch their attention span and increase memory.
For some great high-contrast baby books, check out Jane Foster’s collection of board books, all of which feature bold, vibrant, retro-inspired images that babies love.
Now that you know the backstory behind all the books, there are lots of other great options for high-contrast baby items out there in addition to books. The designers behind Wee Gallery baby products are notably fascinated by the idea of helping babies’ brains develop by literally playing with visuals. They offer a range of adorable, high-contrast baby toys and modern nursery décor. Soft cloth books are illustrated with high contrast black and white bold lines, soft activity blocks delight baby's developing senses with high-contrast graphics, textures, taggies, and crinkles, and the company’s ever-popular art cards feature adorable animal graphics in bold black and white prints.
What you can do?
- A newborn may only look at a bold image for a few seconds, but hang in there with the books because repeat exposure will likely change this as their attention spans grows and their concentration improves.
- Parents know that tummy time is important for a baby’s muscle development. Try placing bold pictures and high-contrast objects around the room during tummy time. It will give you baby something new to look at and engage with, and by moving the objects around and at various distances, you expand their visual exploration and help to improve their focus.
- As your baby grows, their attention span will grow, and they will begin following moving objects. Slowly move a black-and-white toy or picture in different directions and notice how your baby’s gaze follows.
- Perhaps you have a high-contrast mobile or a picture on the wall with high-contrast stimulus. While your baby is focusing on this, point to the object and name it or move it gently to make a sound, both of which may help baby focus. Anything that invites commentary and conversation is a good thing, encouraging adults to engage more with baby.
- Visual focus on a high-contrast images may foster a sense of calm for babies, which parents can be thankful for. Keep a book or a card at the changing table so that it can be used to redirect attention, making diaper changes a bit easier on parents and caregivers.
Photo credit: iStock/Anchiy