Discover Why Babies Stare

Babies stare at something to understand it. Their memory is working to later internalize information in their brain. Learn more in this article!
Discover Why Babies Stare

Last update: 28 June, 2021

The world is entirely new for newborns, and they discover it through their senses. Babies stare at a person or an object because it moves, because it dances, because it’s bright, or because it changes before their eyes. They pursue it with their eyes until a new dazzling object appears in front of them. Objects that are ordinary for adults are fascinating to babies.

When a shadow or a light crosses their diligent gaze, they simply stare at it. Adults have already been incorporating said sensations into their repertoire, meaning that few things seem to surprise us anymore. Everything is familiar and common to us. But for babies, the colorful mobile over their crib is a universe, for example.

Babies are like sponges. They “absorb” reality and make connections. Innumerable sensations shape the emotional, bodily, and motor responses they use to interact with others from birth. The Spanish Pediatric Association’s “Practical Guide for Parents” can be useful in this stage of intense learning.

How a baby’s sight develops

Babies’ brains are very plastic. Experts recently understood the ability of nerve cells to adapt to their surroundings. By connecting to other neurons, they recognize it through their senses without resorting to the use of words.

Babies are born with an extraordinary ability to learn. Their vision development goes hand in hand with motor and neurological development. In the first three months of life, babies look for, stare at, and follow lights or objects that enter their field of vision.

From the third to the fifth month of age, they see their hands, play with them, and also play with the toys around them. From the ninth to the 12th month of age, they touch objects that they recognize and play with them. The retina matures between six and 11 months of age. From three to six years of age, children’s visual capacity matures.

A baby with a toy in his mouth.
Babies are discovering a world that’s completely new to them, so stimulation is constant.

The reasons why babies stare at something or someone

Babies stare at something because movement draws their attention. The neuronal dynamicity of babies is only comparable to the plasticity of the world that’s presented before their eyes.

Moving objects

Moving objects are quite interesting to babies. Mobiles are among the main accessories experts recommend using to stimulate babies.

Make sure that the objects you place in front of and close to your baby glide in the air in a semicircle, but not quickly. The idea is to engage their sight by contributing to ocular motility, which is essential in the development of sight.

Shiny objects or those that light up

Spotlights and shadows are also very eye-catching for babies. They focus their gaze on contoured shapes and silhouettes, as they don’t cause visual discomfort or irritation.

Babies love details, which they scrutinize with interest and also feel with their hands and fingers. For example, a daddy’s beard and mustache can make a baby very curious.

Babies are attracted to colors

Vivid colors and black and white contrasts are eye-catching for babies. However, make sure you don’t overstimulate your baby, as this can exhaust them.

A sign that your baby’s eyes are tired is if they abruptly change their gaze. Playing soft music in the room can accompany the synesthesia of colors, textures, and shapes.

When objects and faces have harmonious features

Experts believe that babies stare at “beautiful” faces. However, you need to keep in mind that they’re unaware of the socially-accepted beauty standards. Thus, we believe that they’re attracted to soft, harmonious, rounded, and full shapes.

Familiar faces, in which they recognize themselves, make them feel calm, protected, and comfortable.

When you should be concerned

The problem isn’t so much when babies stare at something, but when they have a blank stare and don’t interact with their caregivers. Although each baby develops at a different speed, you must keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • If your two-month-old baby doesn’t look at the person who’s looking at them. Studies have shown that this is an early sign of autism.
  • If your three to a four-month-old baby doesn’t visually follow objects that move next to them and doesn’t smile at people who seek their eye contact.
  • Finally, if your six-month-old baby doesn’t try to grab objects within their reach or doesn’t display affection for their caregivers.

These signs will surely manifest along with others, such as psychomotor development problems, language problems, or neurological disorders.

How you can aid your baby’s visual development

A mother with her baby.
A baby’s bond with their caregivers is key to understanding whether they have a vision problem or not. Most babies stare at their parents.

Visual stimulation involves highlighting what you want your baby to see, feel, and memorize. Colors, movements, and shapes aid babies’ perceptual development, as well as their adaptation to the environment.

Babies are actively discovering. Associative mechanisms allow them to connect objects, sensations, or people to different concepts. For example, care, food, protection, caresses, rest, comfort, and satisfaction.

You must know that mirror neurons are a fundamental neurophysiological mechanism in the visual development of babies. They’re essential for action, understanding, and imitation. In fact, about seven hours after they’re born, babies show interest in their mother’s face and will soon start imitating the facial expressions of their caregivers.

For this reason, when babies stare at what someone is doing in front of them, they believe that they’re the ones doing the action.

Another process we can’t overlook is the development of implicit memory, which occurs when babies are approximately a year and a half old. This allows them to unconsciously record and store information. They store the experience of the behavior and the emotions that their caregivers express or provoke during a playful moment or in a particular situation.

It’s very exciting when your baby stares at you!

When your baby looks at you, you probably feel amazing. In that miraculous moment, your gazes meet, and intention and information are being transmitted. You communicate.

From that moment on, the caregiver discovers that they can show their baby many things. This helps babies start building their personalities.

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