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child trends logo with a yellow 40 year anniversaryWe all know that talking, reading, and singing are great ways to baby’s and caregivers to bond, but recent research suggests that eye contact can be just as important to a newborn’s development. Infants naturally begin to make eye contact at six to eight weeks and capitalizing on this behavior may help to promote social and emotional development.

In June 2018, Child Trends reported that “researchers conducted two different experiments to determine if eye gaze mattered when an adult sang to an infant. They used EEG [electroencephalogram] to measure brain activity and found when adults and babies looked directly at each other, their brain waves would sync up more than when the adult avoided eye contact. The babies also tried to communicate more often when adults made eye contact—implying that this small gesture could help develop social skills” (McGrath et al).

Experts recommend that caregivers be face-to-face with babies during social interactions like feedings, baths, and diaper changes to encourage eye contact. Certainly not all babies will “play along,” as the authors suggested, but intentional efforts at eye contact may increase a baby’s interest.

Concerns about a baby’s ability to make eye contact should always be addressed to the family’s pediatrician. The doctor can help rule in or out potential problems like developmental delay, vision impairment, or autism spectrum disorder.

The video of the news segment is available in both English and Spanish here.

This resource is related to one or more competencies in the ICC-Recommended Early Start Personnel Manual (ESPM). To find out more, visit this resource in the Neighborhood here.

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