Image by PICDESIGNcz (Etsy)
Visual stimulation is an important part of a baby's learning and development. Early on in life, your infant’s eyes are a vital sense in adjusting to their surroundings and grounding themselves in their environment. The more that they engage their senses, the more that they can learn about their physical environment and life beyond their nursery.
Many parents are aware of the importance of using Montessori sensory toys for touch and oral stimulation to promote infant learning. But visual engagement is often overlooked or misunderstood. Your infant’s sense of sights is not fully developed yet at the newborn stage, but still provides a large amount of their sensory input at this young age. This is where the simple, yet essential, black and white contrast items come into play.
How Do Black and White Contrast Items Help Your Baby?
We are used to bringing pale tones and pastels into our baby’s room because these colors evoke that sense of softness and calmness we want from a gentle nursery. However, these colors do little for newborns as their eyesight is still developing and soft colors are difficult for them to see.
Color vision builds slowly and babies probably won't appreciate the full spectrum until they are at least five months old. For your infant’s developing eyesight, the best thing you can do is to use a high-contrast monochrome approach to highlight sharp lines and shapes.
To help you baby develop their eyesight, use the following 3 Montessori black and white contrast items:
Montessori Contrast Cards
We have to remember that a baby's eye can't focus very well for the first few months. At the beginning, their max range is no more than 8-11 inches. Therefore, setting up black and white contrast cards, on the ground, in your baby's play area is ideal. These high contrast baby images will help in so many ways.
There is no limit to the images that you can use on these cards as long as they are in high contrast (black vs. white). You might prefer the idea of images of animals, vehicles, or other objects that link in with other toys in their play area.
Image by PICDESIGNcz (Etsy)
Or, you could have cards that have interesting shapes and patterns on them, which could aid your newborn in shape recognition.
Seeing the shapes in high contrast at this range makes it easy for your infant to focus on that precise shape, strengthen their eye muscles, and make connections to similar shapes around them.
Image by The Kavanaugh Report
It also helps if the cards alternate between a black background with a white image and white background with a black image. This will help babies differentiate between the images in a row.
Where to get Montessori black and white contrast cards:
There are companies and designers online that sell packs of cards with some really interesting alternating images.
You can get thick cards that fold out like a concertina book and stand up on their own. These are brilliant for independent learning - another essential part of a Montessori upbringing - because you can stand them up beside your child's topponcino in their play area and leave them to "study" the images in their own time.
Check out these sellers online:
Or, you can download and print your own:
Image by Lovevery
Alternatively, you could always look into ways of creating your own flashcards at home. If you are handy with a paintbrush or have some specific images in mind to print off at home, you could take this DIY approach.
If you need some help, here is an easy to follow youtube video by eewoo studio:
The Munari Mobile
The Montessori Munari mobile utilizes the best practices of the Montessori education method for developing your infants eyesight. Along with helping your baby learn to focus they will also start to learn to track objects, understand depth, and learn basic color differences.
This mobile is the first in the Montessori Mobile Sequence, and features black and white-colored shapes that hang and turn. You could use any black and white mobile to meet the requirements. This Montessori mobile is especially great for the youngest of infants because of the distinct contrasts between black and white.
These contrasts are great for newborns because their eyesight is still developing. It provides them enough challenge to keep their concentration in those early weeks.
Black and White Baby Pictures
Montessori learning encourages independent exploration of the senses and concepts early on. This includes all of the senses, especially the quickly developing visual awareness. So, it helps if kids can engage with visual stimuli close to their eye level. This is where black and white pictures for babies come in.
A framed picture at a standard height isn't going to help much. An infant cannot independently interact with images at an adult height. Instead, a nice bold print close to the floor is in just the right place for your baby to lay next to or crawl over and enjoy the image. An image at your infant’s height provides your child independence and confidence in their growth and visual learning.
The best part is, these work in perfect unison with the use of a Montessori mirror.
These black and white photos may not look that interesting to us compared to something more colorful. However, we need to try and see the world through the developing eyes of a newborn.
You also do not have to get anything specific, expensive, or crazy. Many people choose to not buy new things, and instead use an old picture frame and print out a few black and white designs from the internet. This could be a great option if your baby shares a room with an older sibling, or if you want to colorize their nursery and still give them the benefits of black and white images.
Image by The Kavanaugh Report
In the end, these images are highly engaging for your infant and make a big difference to their learning and physiological development. Colors can also be used and introduced later when your baby gets a little older, but try to stick to just black and white at the beginning.
Looking For More Ideas?
The best part about babies and black and white contrast items is that there is no one tried and true way you have to do things. Any contrasting items will do the trick, and as a parent, you can explore and try new things with your baby to see what they engage with most.
If you are looking to incorporate more than the 3 items recommended above, make sure to watch this great video by Play with Purpose:
Want to learn more about Montessori principles? Check out our other Guides & Articles ->