Perceptual Development in Infants

Perceptual development progresses from infancy throughout early childhood. Your little one's senses develop so that he can use them for awareness of his surroundings as well as learning and growing normally in the early years of life. Perceptual development occurs without a huge effort from parents, but you can watch for and promote it with activities that are fun for both of you. You'll also be able to see if your baby may be lagging behind on perceptual milestones.


Your infant's perception involves using his senses to interpret his environment. This primarily involves his sight, but his hearing and physical milestones also play a part. At birth, infants haven't fully developed 20/20 vision and respond to contrast instead. As the months pass, you'll notice that he seems to track and follow objects better. At the same time, he'll start responding to noises and voices and moving his body to let you know he's excited, confused or happy.

Milestones to Watch For

As your infant develops, knowing which milestones to watch for helps you monitor your baby's perceptual development and report any concerns to his pediatrician. Between four and seven months of age is about when you'll start seeing these milestones. Your baby will likely start tracking objects passed across his field of vision and show recognition if you bring out a toy he's seen before. Your baby is likely to startle if he hears a loud sound and will start to notice the difference in voices and songs that you sing regularly. He'll kick his legs and move his arms when he's excited or angry. He'll begin to connect sounds to actions. For example, hearing you open a jar of baby food excites him because he knows he's about to eat. Babies will also begin exploring objects with their mouth and hands.


You don't have to buckle down and do hours of perceptual development activities every day for adequate development 2. Some of the things you do naturally work, such as looking into each other's eyes. Show your little one toys and cards that are black and white. The contrast between the two colors promotes visual development. Play with toys that make noise so he begins to learn about the different sounds he hears on a daily basis. Play with plenty of different toys, which helps your infant begin to perceive differences in weight, height, shape and texture. Let older infants play with large chunky puzzles and foam shapes or let them "draw" with pureed baby food.

When to Call the Doctor

Infants develop at different paces, so your little one might not progress as quickly as a friend's baby or even an older sibling. If you are ever concerned about your baby's progress, talk to his pediatrician to determine if there might be a problem. If your infant isn't reaching perceptual milestones, there might be an issue with his sight or hearing. His doctor can test for them and create a treatment plan, if needed.