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Your child's eyes

Learn about how your child's eyes develop over the first 12 months and the times they will be checked as they grow.

Your baby should have sight from birth. Some babies are born with eye problems or develop eye problems at an early age. Some of these problems can be treated if they are found early.

Contact your public health nurse or GP if you think something is wrong with your child’s eyes

How your child’s eyesight develops

0 to 6 weeks

Your child will start to focus their gaze on a face or object.

6 to 8 weeks

Your child may:

  • look at you
  • follow your face and smile back when you smile
  • follow a coloured toy that is about 20cms (or 8 inches) away
  • move both eyes together

2 to 6 months

Your child may enjoy looking at bright colours and following moving objects with their eyes.

By about 6 months

Your child may:

  • look around them with interest
  • see across a room
  • notice and reach out for small coloured blocks or other objects placed 30cm (or 12 inches) in front of them
  • recognise familiar toys and people that are about 2 to 3 metres away

By about 9 months

Your child may:

  • reach out to touch objects and toys that they see in front of them
  • look at small things such as crumbs of bread that are 30 cm (or 12 inches) in front of them
  • use their hands and eyes to try to poke at crumbs
  • recognise familiar people who are across the room or street

By about 1 year onwards

Your child may:

  • recognise and point to objects and toys that they want
  • notice people, traffic or animals that are moving and will watch them with interest for a while

When your child’s eyes will be checked

Soon after your baby is born a paediatrician or specialist midwife will shine a light into your baby’s eyes.

This is part of the newborn clinical examination. If your baby was born in a hospital, this examination is done before you go home.

Related topic

Your child's health checks

The doctor or midwife is checking or screening your child’s eye for cataracts. A cataract is when the lens in your eye looks cloudy and means you will have problems seeing things. Cataracts are rare in newborns.

The public health nurse will check your child's eyes during development assessments.

This happens:

  • between 21 and 24 months
  • between 3 and 4 years old
  • when your child is in junior infant class at primary school

Related topics

Your child's developmental checks

During the check of your child's eyes in primary school, the public health nurse will:

  • note any concerns you wrote on the consent form and
  • check your child’s vision using a special chart with letters

If your child is already wearing glasses they will be checked with their glasses on.

If there is something wrong with your child's eyes, they will be referred to a specialist.

Types of eye problems

Some of the eye problems that affect children include:

Cataract

A cataract is when the lens in the eye looks cloudy and means you will have problems seeing things.

Amblyopia

Amblyopia is also called lazy eye. It is poor vision in one or both eyes where normal eyesight did not develop during early childhood.

Squint

Squint is also called a cast or a turn. It means one eye looks in a different direction from the other.

There are different types of squint:

  • one or both eyes can appear to be turning in (convergent) 
  • turning out (divergent) 
  • turning upward (vertically displaced)

As a result, one eye does not see as well as normal. Your child’s eye or eyes may show signs of a squint on and off or all the time. Some children will 'grow out of' a squint but others will not.

Page last reviewed: 20/11/2018
Next review due: 20/11/2021