When it comes to vision, your baby’s development is impressive: From fuzzily making out a two-dimensional, fairly gray world at birth to seeing depth and full color with adult clarity by age 9 months. But vision encompasses much more than what we see; equally important is how we see. Enter visual tracking. It’s one of the most important tasks of the eyes, which is why you’ll practice visual tracking a lot with your baby if you’re using our development program.
What is Visual Tracking?
Visual tracking is a fine-motor skill that allows us to control where we place our eye gaze. As it develops, babies become increasingly better at accurately moving their eyes back and forth, up and down, diagonally, and in circular motions. In general, babies can track with their eyes by age 2-3 months.
Why is Visual Tracking Important?
Let’s look at what visual tracking helps us do, through the lens of an 8 month-old little one.
- Follow a moving object with the eyes. She looks up from playing to watch the family pet walk in front of her.
- Use the eyes to scan an object or environment for information. She holds a new toy in her hands and examines it, from edge to edge, with her eyes.
- Direct hand movements. She watches a dangling toy sway from a play mat and successfully reaches up to grab it.
- Accurately shift eye gaze from one thing to another. She’ll hone this tracking skill down the road, and it will help her do things like copy from a board.
As you support your little one’s visual tracking, she’s steadily building skills that will one day allow her to read without losing her place, write in a straight line with neat handwriting, catch a ball during a softball game, and pick you out of a crowd at her school play.
What Other Areas of Development are Related to Visual Tracking?
Areas of development that relate to visual tracking include:
- Visual fixation (or being able to maintain a steady gaze on a target or object). This is a basic skill that forms the foundation for all eye movements.
- The vestibular system. This internal sense of balance and motion helps control eye movements.
- Attention skills. Poor visual tracking may interfere with a child’s ability to sustain attention on a task. She may lose interest, feel unsuccessful, or get tired.
- Midline crossing. To successfully track with our eyes, we must be able to cross the imaginary line dividing the two sides of our body.
One of the best ways to know your little one is up-to-speed with this skill is to know the milestones for visual tracking, and practice it at home. Our BabySparks program is a great resource for this. If your baby isn’t tracking well by age 3 months, check in with your pediatrician for guidance.