Ever wondered why baby books are often black and white? Although babies can see from birth, the world is still quite blurry to a newborn. The retina is not fully developed until nine months of age; a newborn can only see strong contrasts of dark and light. In fact, when babies are born, they see best at around 15-20cm – roughly the distance they are held for feeding.
A baby’s colour perception is also limited at birth. Babies see black and white first, then shades of grey, then red, followed by the other colours.
Experts believe that this reduced vision is a biological trait. It’s there to help babies feel safe with the parent, as well as limiting sensory input from the wider world.
Because of this, a high-contrast book with bold patterns and simple shapes is going to appeal most to a young baby. And babies are never too young for a book! A black and white book gives your baby the opportunity to start to experience shapes and patterns from the wider world and help them begin to learn to focus, whilst also providing gentle entertainment and stimulation.
The best black and white books by age
For newborns, choose black and white books with strong contrasts and very simple patterns. From 6–9 months old, you can start to introduce books with bold colours, shapes and outlines, as well as tactile books that they can feel and touch.
As well as reading with them, talk to your baby about the pictures on the page. They love nothing more than to listen to your voice, and it’s a wonderful bonding opportunity for you both.
Rather than rushing out to buy books, your local library has a large collection of black and white books. Borrow up to 20 books at a time (completely free!), to ensure your baby is always entertained and to begin to nurture your baby’s love for reading from the moment they are born.