Helping children use eye contact

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They say the eyes are the window to the soul and when we first hold our precious newborns in our arms, we can’t help but look into their eyes. After nine months of waiting, we finally get to meet the little soul who was growing inside us. Staring into their eyes for the first time is nothing short of magic. 

Indeed, eye contact is a crucial part of building your child’s social skills, so you might be curious about how you can help a child improve eye contact. When it comes to eye contact, there are many characteristic behaviours we can teach our children. 

Encouraging eye contact is so much more than your baby recognising you. Through eye contact, they will learn to read social cues, understand information, relate to voices, and slowly start to comprehend things. Looking into your baby’s eyes also releases oxytocin (aka the love hormone) and helps build the bond between parent and child. So what are you waiting for? Start making eyes at your bub and let the love flow. 😍

Keep reading as we break down all the ways you can help children use eye contact. 

How can I help my child improve eye contact?

  • At mealtime: Feeding your baby or toddler is the perfect opportunity to make eye contact with them. If your baby is breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, seize the peaceful window of time to stare into their eyes. If they are in a high chair eating solids, bring the spoon up to your line of vision and your baby’s and slowly guide the food in as you look at one another. You can reward this moment with coos and claps, which will, in turn, encourage more eye contact in the future. 
  • When you change their nappy: This is a great way to reframe what can sometimes feel like a monotonous chore 💩. Use nappy changes as a moment to connect with your little one. Look into their eyes as you explain to them what you’re doing, “I’m changing your nappy. Now I’m putting on a clean one and you’re going to feel so fresh.” Creating this connection and dialogue will lay the foundation of their social skills
  • Model eye contact: When you talk to your partner or other family members, always make eye contact with them and do this with your little one, too. Remind them to make eye contact at appropriate times as well. For example, if they’re saying hello to a grandparent and avoid looking at them directly, remind them to look at them. Likewise, when they’re talking to you, you can use phrases such as “tell my eyes” or “I can’t see your beautiful face.”  When in doubt, channel your inner Kath and Kim with a simple “look at me.” 👀
  • During play: Play is an integral part of our children’s development — it helps them develop their language skills, express their creativity, and grow their personalities. With babies, games like peek-a-boo serve as the perfect time to practice eye contact. Smiling, tickling, making silly faces or noises, as well as laughing and hugging are also great ways to make both of your eyes meet. 
  • When your child is asking for something: When your little one requests food or a toy, wait for them to make eye contact with you before giving them the item. You can hover said item in front of your eyes, and then when they look at the object and you, you can hand it over. 

What does it mean when a child doesn’t make eye contact?

If your little one isn’t making eye contact by the time they’re two months old, it’s best to see your paediatrician so they can investigate the matter further. 

While it might not end up being anything too serious, avoidance of eye contact can sometimes be an early indicator of being on the autism spectrum. Failing to make eye contact sits under the social skills category of autism and is considered an early red flag. Remember, not making eye contact alone isn’t enough to diagnose autism — it’s just one of the symptoms. If your child isn’t making eye contact, it’s always best to see a pediatrician. 

At what age should a child make eye contact?

When your baby first makes eye contact with you, it’s one of the most heartwarming milestones — get ready for the rush of love. So, at what age will your child make eye contact? Your child will start to make eye contact with you around the six to eight-week mark. After they start to focus with their eyes, the first smiles usually follow soon after. 
Nurturing our children’s social skills starts from the moment they are born and as parents, we are their biggest teachers. When we help children use eye contact, we are setting them up for a life of confidence and connection.

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