Sign up for my email newsletter now (scroll to the bottom of the page) and receive free, downloadable black and white pictures that you can use to boost your baby’s eye development. (If you’re viewing this on a small screen the link will take you to the form. If you’re viewing this on a large screen, the signup form will be in the sidebar on the right of the screen.) Or you can read on to learn why black and white pictures are so good for babies up to 6 months of age.
Choose black and white for sight to kickstart your baby’s eye development
We all want to give our babies the best start in life and supporting eye development is probably one of the top things parents want to contribute to. So, how do you kickstart your baby’s eye development? The answer is fairly simple: choose black and white for sight – show your little one lots of black and white pictures and show them to him or her often.
Why are black and white pictures best for newborns?
Why black and white pictures I hear you ask? Extensive research tells us that babies up to 6 months of age prefer to look at high-contrast, geometric shapes and that the best high-contrast images are black and white ones. See the following papers for some examples of this research: Frantz, Ordy and Udelf, 1962; Bower and Lunde, 1977; Salapatek and Kessen, 1966; Chaze and Ludington-Hoe, 1984.
When I first came across this concept, I admit I was a little skeptical. If black and white pictures are so good for newborns and young babies, why do baby shops insist on selling only coloured toys, decorations and furniture etc.? I did the research though and there really is overwhelming science to back up this idea so I can only assume that bright colours and pastels are more appealing to the adults who shop for babies. And of course older babies love colourful things so it makes long-term financial sense to invest in coloured paraphernalia because babies will like coloured things for longer than they will prefer black and white.
Do newborns just prefer black and white pictures or are there other benefits too? Didn’t you say that black and white pictures are good for baby eye development?
So is it really all that much better to show your baby black and white pictures? Well, if it were just a case of newborns prefering black and white pictures it might not be, but there are many tangible benefits to showing babies black and white pictures.
Most pertinent to the topic of this post, is that visual support early in life has been shown to play a very important role in the development of a baby’s vision. In fact, research has shown that the effects of early visual stimulation are still apparent two or more years on (Lewis and Maurer, 2009). So integrating black and white pictures to your newborn’s life really will kickstart your baby’s eye development.
Cost effective ways to give your baby lots of exposure to black and white images
As I noted above, most of us need to be at least a little frugal when it comes to shopping for our babies. After all, there are always financial consequences to having a baby. Even if paid maternity, paternity and/or parental leave are available, a new baby means a new mouth to feed and a new body to clothe. And if it’s your first baby, there are cots and prams and all sorts of other paraphernalia to buy. Thus it doesn’t make a lot of sense to buy black and white furniture, for instance, for a baby that will get the most benefit out of it for only 6 months.
So what’s a family to do? Again the answer is fairly simple: buy black and white items that are low-cost and with either still be interesting to your little one after 6 months or will only be used during the first 6 months.
Black and white items for the first 6 months only
Let’s start with the last option first. Babies grow fast. Unbelievably fast sometimes. So black and white clothing that will fit your baby in the first 6 months or so is a great investment as Bub will grow out of the clothes before he or she no longer derives the most benefit from black and white images.
You can also print your own black and white images almost for free (it only costs as much as the paper and printer ink you use, and maybe the cost of laminating if you want the printouts to be a little longer-lasting and harder-wearing). Such printouts are great for use as nursery, playroom and pram decorations and they can be used as flash cards too. If you sign up for my email newsletter at the bottom of this page, your first free gift is a set of printable black and white pictures that you can use for just this purpose.
Black and white items for beyond the first 6 months
The other option on our list seems simple to satisfy too but we all know looks can be deceiving. Black and white clothing for babies is fairly easy to come by but if you try to find cheap black and white toys for instance, you’re only likely to find zebras and maybe a small number of specialised baby development toys.
Books are another low-cost item that you would think could fit the bill but unfortunately, black and white children’s picture books are few and far between. When I went searching for them, I only found books that had black and white pictures – they didn’t have any words! I could have made up stories to go with the pictures but they weren’t the kind of pictures that lent themselves to that.
I knew that reading to children is really important for their development (more on this in another blog post) and I thought black and white picture story books would be the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone while also being low-cost. So when I couldn’t find any with words, I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a no-brainer! In the end, I made my own.
My daughter loved hers, still does even though she’s well past 6 months now, and I thought that other babies deserved to experience the same joy my daughter did. So now I produce a black and white book for newborns and babies up to 6 months of age, personalised to each baby to increase the joy as Bub learns his or her own name. If you want to kickstart your baby’s visual development with a personalised black and white story designed for newborns, check out ‘Where’s My Teddy?‘.
- Bower, T.G.R. and Lunde, D.T. (1977) A primer of infant development. San Francisco: W.H.Freeman & Co. Find it here: http://www.worldcat.org/title/primer-of-infant-development/oclc/2373078
- Chaze, B.A. and Ludington-Hoe, S.M. (1984) “Sensory Stimulation in the NICU,” AJN, American Journal of Nursing, 84(1), pp. 68–71. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3463253?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
- Frantz, R.L., Ordy, J.M. and Udelf, M.S. (1962) “Maturation of pattern vision in infants during the first six months,” Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 55(6), pp. 907–917 Available at:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232532789_Maturation_of_pattern_vision_in_infants_during_the_first_6_months
- Lewis, T.L. and Maurer, D. (2009) “Effects of early pattern deprivation on visual development,” Optometry and Vision Science, 86(6), pp. 640–646. Available at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.597.3989&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Salapatek, P. and Kessen, W. (1966) “Visual scanning of triangles by the human newborn,” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 3(2), pp. 155–167. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/17247311_Visual_scanning_of_triangles_by_human_newborn