Kheyali Mondal, B.Optom

Oculoplasty Fellow Trainee, Dr.Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital, Delhi, India



Colour vision is the capability to distinguish colourful wavelengths of light waves and to perceive the differences as differences in shades. The natural eye can differentiate hundreds of similar bands of wavelengths as they enter the colour-perceiving cells (cones) of the retina.(1) Just after birth, a baby sees only black and white, with tones of grey. As the months go by, babies are capable to distinguish and respond to the entire range and tones of different colours.(1,2)

Figure 1: Baby playing with colourful toys
(Image courtesy :

When do babies see colours?
The colour vision of a baby matures and develops at nearly the same rate as the development of other visual capabilities. At the age of 1 month, the babies become sensitive to the intensity of colours, and they spend a great deal of time looking at bold colours and varying patterns as compared to lighter tones. At the age of 4 months, babies are capable of distinguishing and responding to the entire range and hues of different colours. At the age of 2 years, perception of colour is no longer sensorimotor. (3,4)

Colour categorisation for babies

A group of investigators from Chuo University, Japan Women’s University and Tohoku University has revealed that between 5 and 7 months, babies developed the ability of categorical colour perception in their brain, indeed before the accession of language.
Although former studies had tested babies’ responses to some colours, none had performed a systematic study of the full-colour range on babies. If a familiar hue was shown alongside a new colour, the baby would look down after a short time. This meant that the baby didn’t think that the new colour was unfamiliar. For example, New-borns may not be great at distinguishing Scarlet from Crimson, but they can clearly see a bright red.(3,4)

Mechanism behind Colour perception

Colour vision in humans is generally sustained by three types of cone photoreceptors, with spectral perceptiveness that peaks at long, medium & short wavelengths. L- cones are responsible for red lights, M – cones for green lights & S – cones for bluish lights.(2)

When an infant’s eyes absorb a world of new vision, colours are reused purely, in a pre-verbal region of the brain. As we grow-up, colours are recovered in the brain’s language centre part, refracted by the notions we’ve for them. Studies suggest that, with babies being trichromatic (both active cone red-green & blue-yellow opponents) they develop the red-green colour medium first, and blue-yellow medium develops 4 to 8 weeks later by 3 months.(1,5)

Figure 2: Baby playing with colourful balls.
(Image courtesy:

Significance of colouring

In order to ensure better growth of a child’s vision and motor proficiency, colouring exercise are largely recommended.(3,5)

Figure 3: Flowchart depicting the importance of colouring in children.


Every parent should understand that with each passing day, the baby is taking in more and more of this vibrant world. Practice naming the things and colours in the child’s environment as they become older to aid in vocabulary and word association development.



  1. Infant color perception: Insight into perceptual development. Alice E. Skelton, John Maule, and Anna Franklin, Child Dev Perspect. 2022 Jun; 16(2): 90–95.
  2. Infant color vision: prediction of infants’ spontaneous color preferences. Iris Zemach et al. Vision Res. 2007 May; 47(10):1368-81
  3. Biological origins of color categorization. Alice E Skelton et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 May 23;114(21):5545-5550.
  4. Staples R. The responses of infants to color. Journal of Experimental Psychology. 1932 Apr;15(2):119.
  5. Chase WP. Color vision in infants. Journal of experimental psychology. 1937 Mar;20(3):203.