Guest blog by Ruth Bradford, founder of The Little Black & White Book Project
You might have seen monochrome designs adorning new baby gifts such as muslins, flash cards and even books. But you have no idea why it’s such a trend? Well, here’s the low down on why buying a new baby in your life something black and white is possibly one of the best gifts you could give.
Babies can actually detect light and dark in the womb. When a baby is born, it is the contrast in light and dark that continues to register the strongest on their retinas, which is a big part of how the eye works. However, a baby’s field of vision is just 30cm so most of what they see is very blurry and it is only large contrasts in light and dark that are being interpreted by their eye and brain. The contrast between black and white is the highest achievable, so therefore this is what a baby will be able to ‘see’ most clearly in an otherwise fuzzy environment. This continues for around 5 months when typically the field of vision increases and the wider world comes into sharper focus.
So using high contrast images as from the early days and weeks not only gives your baby something to interact with that they can actually focus on, it is also passively exercising the eye muscles, helping the eyes to learn to co-ordinate together and building those valuable feedback loops with the brain.
But it doesn’t stop there
Just because a baby’s field of vision opens up at around 5 months of age doesn’t mean its time to bin the black and white. High contrast images are still hugely relevant as part of everyday sensory play as your baby grows and learns about the world around them, practising all of those new found skills that seem to develop at a rapid pace. Sensory play is simply play that is geared towards specific senses - touch, smell, taste etc and visual stimulation is part of that. So supporting visual development and learning continues to be an important part of the mix of the activities you introduce your baby to all through the early years to preschool and beyond.
Not all products are equal though
Black and white images might still be relevant as part of your sensory play right through the early years but that doesn’t mean that your child is going to find that monochrome baby rattle as enticing at three years as they did at 3 months. Try to pick items that you know will hold their interest as they develop and learn. Books and flash cards can be a really great resource to invest in early and will be items your child comes back to time and time again. For example, board books can be used for tummy time in the early weeks, help practice fine motor skills as they learn to turn the pages themselves, help with recognition and learning words and names when they begin to talk right through to early readers who will be able to practice phonics and letter sounds. The same can apply for flash cards and alphabet or number wall charts - they can hit so many development stages if you invest wisely.
How to incorporate a little easy sensory play everyday
Books, books, books have to be the easiest go to if you want to add some sensory play to your day. Whether that’s black and white high contrast pictures or lift the flap books or touchy feely textures. Picking up a book together or setting out a few on the play mat or rug for some independent play doesn’t require any planning, resources or even thinking to be honest. Reading is playful, exploring books is playful, play and reading do not have to be exclusive and you don’t have to worry about reading all of the words or turning every page. Let your little one lead the way and by making books accessible and part of your everyday routine it hopefully creates an encouraging environment when the time comes for them to learn to read independently.
If you’re worried that a book habit can become an expensive one, there’s lots of ways you can keep costs down. Visit your local library, check out your charity shops, do a book swap with friends or baby groups, keep an eye out online for people having a clear out, pop them on your gift wish lists and even check out marketplaces like Vinted. Fostering an early love of reading by making books part of your sensory play time is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your baby.
Black and white resources can be an amazing gift for a new arrival into the world and something parents and babies can share and enjoy together. The science is proven, but you don’t really need to know about that, just be reassured that high contrast images are working hard in the background as your baby takes them all in. During a time where, lets face it, babies really don’t do much, high contrast books and flash cards can create moments of calm, moments to bond and moments to give that early visual development a helping hand as they learn to navigate the fourth trimester. And if you can make it a black and white book, even better!
Ruth Bradford is the founder and creator of The Little Black & White Book Project, offering a range of high contrast animal themed sensory books, flash cards and gifts. Ruth is passionate about inspiring the next generation of animal lovers from birth whilst also supporting babies and parents with beautiful learning tools designed to last all throughout the early years.
You can find The Little Black & White Book Project here: