A case for color

I’ve always been interested in color theory, the notion that colors in your environment can affect your mood, behavior, sleep and memory. Once I got pregnant and started reading more about a baby’s development, I became even more interested in the link between a baby’s eye sight development, cognitive development and color.

Each of the five senses is a doorway to a baby’s mind, explains Dr. Sears Wellness Institute. “While baby’s vision may be one of the least developed senses at birth, visual input during the early months may have the most profound effect on baby’s developing nervous system.” As newborns, babies can only detect large contrasts between light and dark.

As a result, contrasting colors send the strongest signals to a baby’s brain to help stimulate brain growth and aid in visual development. That visual input, and the input from the other four senses, causes nerve cells in the brain to multiply and form connections with other nerve cells. Visual input helps the retina thrive, helps the optic nerve to grow and encourages the visual part of the baby’s brain to develop by leaps and bounds, according to Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

By three months, babies start to see color, which is when adding bright, primary colors become important for their development. Between five and eight months, babies’ color vision is fully developed.

So what can parents do?

I have to say that the majority of the research I found on this topic is focused on decorating the nursery. Our nursery has navy walls, a white bed and dresser, a green toy chest and accent colors in the rug and wall decor. But it turns out, we’re never in her nursery. She sleeps in our room (based on the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics), and we spend almost all of our time playing in the common areas of our house. So we had to find other ways to stimulate our baby’s vision, including her bedding, tummy time blankets and toys. At six months old, she started to become a lot more aware of my clothing as well. Our family has a set of matching Christmas pajamas with a pattern of brightly colored lights, and every time I wear them, her eyes light up and she traces the pattern with her fingers. She’s never done that with my solid pastel pajamas.

I can’t write this post without addressing the current trend of neutral and pastel baby nurseries and toys. While they’re beautiful, chic and probably match the aesthetic of the house, there’s a reason that Sesame Street characters, preschool classrooms and ALL the toys we played with as kids are primary colors. As Dr. Sears Wellness Institute puts it, “Surround a baby with soft pastel colors, and you might as well be blindfolding him. While these may look pretty to you, they do nothing visually for your baby. Research has proven that black and white contrasts register powerfully on baby’s retina and send the strongest visual signals to baby’s brain. Stronger signals mean more brain growth and faster visual development.”

Below are some suggestions for stimulating your baby’s vision.

For newborns, Dr. Sears Wellness Institute recommends striped bedding, like this navy and white baby blanket.

I recommended this breastfeeding nightgown in a previous post about maternity clothes. When my baby was a newborn, one of the few things she saw up close regularly was my outfit. I wore A LOT of nightgowns in those early days. This one has snaps at the top of the shoulders that allow the fabric to fold down when breastfeeding. The fabric is so soft and comes in multiple colors, both solids and stripes. I ordered a small, which fit throughout my pregnancy as well.

Wee Gallery makes gorgeous and educational Art Cards for babies. The company recommends placing the cards in a baby’s crib, above the changing table or any other place the baby spends time. It also describes how the cards facilitate a baby’s development over time, from birth through the first year. These are an amazing baby gift!!

Our daughter adores this Baby Einstein Sea Friends Activity Gym. We introduced her to it when she was about a month old, and she’s been playing with it consistently since then (she’s six months old). This one is almost always sold out, so if you see it, buy it!

When our daughter turned four months old, I ordered her Weird and Wonderful Animals Bath Time Stickers. She always enjoyed bath time, but she’s absolutely obsessed with these foam stickers. They cling to the bath walls when they’re wet and float on the water surface if they fall in. My favorite feature is that the animals each come in three pieces, so she’ll have fun being silly and mixing and matching them once she’s older.

I ordered these count and stack cups for our daughter for Christmas based on the recommendation from Busy Toddler. Now that she’s able to sit up on her own, she’ll have fun stacking and nesting the cups, and eventually we can use them to teach her colors and numbers. There are small holes in the bottom of the cups, so I think they’ll be a big hit pouring and sprinkling during bath time.

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