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Ways to help your baby recognize faces and objects

Wondering when your baby will recognize your face, her teddy bear and herself? Here's when children start to recognize familiar objects and people.

Your baby is drawn to your face from the moment she’s born. (And you to hers!) If her eyes aren’t yet lighting up with excitement when you walk into the room though, don’t take it personally.


Newborns need their caregivers to grow, learn and thrive. So it’s no surprise that they’re hardwired to seek out faces and find them more fascinating than most anything else. But recognizing certain faces and objects including yours, other caregivers and even her own is a gradual process that takes longer to unfold.  

When do babies recognize familiar faces and objects?
Your little looker is born with facial and object recognition skills that will sharpen over the course of several months. As your infant begins to spend more time awake and alert, she'll observe and study the world around her. In time, she'll recognize favorite toys, familiar objects, people and, eventually, herself.


At birth: Even though your baby doesn’t recognize you, she certainly likes the look of you. Studies have shown that even newborns, with their eyesight limited to about 12 inches, prefer to look at familiar faces, especially yours.

Months 2 to 4: Your baby will start to recognize her primary caregivers' faces, and by the 4-month mark, she'll recognize familiar faces and objects from a distance. She’ll love looking in the mirror, but since she isn’t able to recognize herself yet, it’s a social activity: “Wouldn't you know it, that kid keeps showing up at the same place I do!” At this stage, engaging with the face staring back at her is all about fun.

Month 6: Now halfway through her first year, your baby knows familiar faces and understands if someone is a stranger.

Month 9: By this age, your baby will likely have favorite toys and objects and will be able to recognize and look for them even when partially hidden: "That's my bear peeking out from under that blanket!"

Months 15 to 18: Self-recognition doesn't develop for most children until between ages 1 and 1 1/2. So even though your child will recognize many other familiar objects and people halfway through her first year, it takes quite a bit longer for her to look at an image of herself and think, "Hey, that's me!" As toddlers gain independence walking and talking they discover themselves as a distinct member of the family.


What are the activities to help your child recognize faces and objects?

Get close
Gazing into your eyes is one of your newborn’s favorite pastimes. Give her plenty of opportunities to see your face up close, from about 8 to 12 inches away. Early on, that’s the distance from which she sees best.


Have fun with mirrors
Your baby will love looking at herself in the mirror even before she knows it’s her. Set an unbreakable, child-safe mirror in front of her during tummy time or attach one to her stroller or changing table.

Make playtime an opportunity for show-and-tell
With a younger baby, play "museum" by arranging favorite toys in a row and talking about them one by one: "This is Jessica’s bear. Jessica's bear is brown."


Play peekaboo
As your baby grows and learns to recognize more of her playthings, you can graduate to peekaboo, hiding your face or toys behind a blanket or pillow and watching her face light up as she “finds” you or the toy. Little ones will start to get a kick out of the game’s surprise element (and let out some giggles!) around 3 months, and by 9 to 12 months, your sweetie might start to initiate the game herself.


Flip through photos
For older babies and toddlers, another fun way to promote self-recognition (and recognition of other beloved family faces) is to look through photo albums, pointing out photos of your child and other family members.