Black & White Infant Stimulation Cards & Cognitive Development

Black and white visual stimulation cards for babies are widely available -- you can choose from an assortment of faces, animals and patterns such as squares, circles, stars and snowflakes 1. But you might wonder if there's any value in holding a flash card in front of a tiny baby., a website from the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that, while baby is able to see some color soon after birth, he prefers to look at bold patterns in strongly contrasting colors or in black and white 2.

Visual Input and Baby's Brain

Your baby's cognitive growth is connected to her five senses. Because vision is one of the least developed senses at birth, notes that visual input in baby's first few months may have the most profound effect on her maturing nervous system 1. At birth, the nerve cells in your baby's brain are not well developed. In her first week, your baby can't see much -- things look gray and indistinct. As baby grows and her brain receives input from her senses, the nerve cells begin to multiply and make connections. This makes visual stimulation crucial to her development 3.

Stimulating Vision

According to, the best way to stimulate a baby's vision is by using black and white stripes or light and dark contrasting colors. At birth, a baby's retina -- the back layer of the eye that detects light -- isn't completely developed. A newborn retina detects only strong contrasts between light and dark or black and white. Shades of pastel may appear to your infant as one shade blended together. Black and white images register strongly on a baby's retina and send the most significant visual signals to his brain. Stronger signals increase brain growth and accelerate visual development. Hold a black and white flash card in front of your little one and watch his eyes light up.

Holding the Cards

A baby’s vision goes through many changes in her first month. While she was born with peripheral vision, she is just beginning to acquire the ability to focus closely on a single point in the center of her field of vision. She will prefer to look at objects held about 8 to 15 inches in front of her. Try holding the black and white cards at various distances to see what most interests your baby. As she grows, experiment with slowly moving the patterned cards up and down or side to side in front of her. At first she may only follow large, slowly moving objects, but she'll progress to following smaller, faster movements.

Patterns and Lines

As your baby's eyesight develops, he will begin to look around for more stimulating items. According to, at one month baby prefers simple patterns with straight lines, such as checks or big stripes 2. By three months, he’ll be more interested in circular patterns, such as spirals and bull’s-eyes. Cards with curved, black and white faces on them will appeal to him at this time. By about four months old, your baby will respond to the full spectrum of colors and shades.