Visual Stimulation Through Simple Toys

High-contrasting colors are best for building vision development in newborn babies. But which toys should you get and why? Here are some of my favorite black, white (and red) toys.

black and white play matWhy black and white?

Newborn babies can only see 8 – 15 inches in front of them. Not only are they extremely near-sighted, they are unable to see color and highly detailed designs. Black and white toys offer newborns and infants just enough stimulation to learn essential eye development through high contrast.

Better for baby

For the first six months, you will find that your baby prefers toys with simple shapes, bold outlines and contrasting colors. Most black and white toys also contain the color red — red is included to stimulate vision through contrast, which holds a baby’s attention for a longer period of time. When a baby is able to focus and become visually stimulated, physical activity follows close behind.

Black, white and red newborn toys

  • The Kushies Shangrila Activity Mat ($120) is a multi-sensory play mat. The contrasting colors on the mat reverse to a bright textured play mat that can grow with your child’s development. The removable archway holds toys perfect for building hand-eye coordination and visual perception. We used one very similar to this for tummy time and for playtime while traveling.
  • The Winner-Ferguson Crawl and Discover Mat ($50) can be used from birth for essential tummy time and visual stimulation.
  • The Infant Stim Mobile ($28) is an award-winning mobile that teaches early visual activity and pre-reaching movement. I actually preferred my baby's crib to be calm and not stimulating so I opted to put this on the changing table instead.

Black, white and red infant toys

  • The Wimmer-Ferguson See and Say Book ($10) helps encourage parent-child interaction as image interaction. The high-contrasting colors keep baby engaged and interested. We still read this book — two years later!
  • The Car Seat Gallery ($17) can be used from birth, but it won’t be until your baby reaches three months before he can focus on the contrasting images due to the distance of the infant car seat and where the gallery is placed. I swear by this thing and think every parent should have one.

More on baby toys

An age-by-age guide to buying toys
How play stimulates babies
Smart newborn playtime


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Dr. Russell D. Hamer March 22, 2013
The information you give about "Why Black & White" is specious. Most infants are born far-sighted, not near-sighted. They can see ANY distance, not just 8-15 inches. They are born with color vision (unless they have a genetic deficiency). Black & White toys are NOT necessary to "promote essential eye development". Visual development is vulnerable only when there is extreme deprivation from patter/contrast information (as in congenital cataracts). Then, B&W toys might be helpful. For normal, healthy infants, ANY normal, natural environment with objects, trees, people, furniture, mom-and-dad-faces, baby's own body, etc etc is sufficient for normal visual development. Common sense! - 7 million years of evolution has solved the problem of stimulation adequate for normal vision to develop. You are guilt-tripping, scaring parents to get $$ from them. Unethical. Do your homework on the REAL data about visual development.