The best visual stimuli for developing babies' vision are bold, black and white patterns with lots of contrast. With that in mind, and with my glasses slipped down to the tip of my nose librarian style, I selected fabric for my next sewing project.
Newborn babies cannot see much of anything which is why bold, stark patterns are best. If you have exceedingly bad vision (20/500), like I do, you can get a sense of what the world looks like to a newborn baby by looking at things with your glasses off. Forget about making out fine patterns — only the big shapes bordered by significantly lighter or darker shapes stand out, and even they are blurry.
I chose fabric that offered a decent amount of contrast but also had some variety in shapes - some circles, some lines, some squiggles. Different portions of the visual cortex respond to different stimuli based on how lines are oriented so it's important to represent a variety of patterns. I also tried to achieve a variety of textures because tactile feedback is important too, but being in a small town, I had to settle for what I could get. And, I am satisfied I got what I needed for these:
• 'taggie' blanket small enough to take anywhere
• fabric book
The blanket will have 9 squares on the front and the red 'minky' fabric on the reverse. Ribbon loops and braids of ribbon will hang from the edges and maybe from in between some of the squares. I may put some cellophane in between the batting in some places so it crinkles when touched.
The book will be 6 inches square and designed to lie open flat. I may add some concentric circles in contrasting colors to the fabric that doesn't have much contrast. Concentric circles appeal to babies, as do simple faces, so I may make one of them too. On some of the pages I am going to put some cellophane in between the batting so there's auditory feedback as well as well as visual stimulation.
The blocks I will save for last and hope to make 6 so each side can have a big, bold letter or number on it in red, white or black felt — for learning the alphabet.
With the scraps, if enough is left over I hope to make some stacking rings. They, like nesting cups, are a good toy for promoting cognitive development. They provide practice in planning, ordering and discriminating sizes.
I think the White Stripes would approve of my fabric selection, don't you?