Originally published July 7, 2021. Updated June 27, 2023 with a bit more information and some new photos!
Black and white contrast cards, also known as infant stimulation cards, are perfect for newborns.
In the first three months of life, babies are fascinated by high-contrast images, especially ones that are black and white.
If you want to make DIY black and white cards, it’s time to pull out your laminator and get crafty! These are so easy to make, and they’ll mesmerize your little one.
The instructions and link to download the cards are toward the end of the post.
Why Black and White Cards?
Researchers have recommended infant stimulation cards for decades.
A 1984 article from the American Journal of Nursing suggested using black-and-white patterns to promote growth, development, and attachment in the NICU.
To encourage sensory stimulation in the NICU, the authors developed a vision stimulation program.
The program included black-and-white index cards with varying patterns placed within the visual range according to the baby’s age.
The cards had black-and-white checkerboards, circles, faces, and triangles.
That’s right – you can start using high-contrast cards with babies from Day 1 to encourage growth and vision development.
As the weeks progress, you’ll notice your baby’s vision developing.
They’ll begin following objects as you slowly move them across their field of vision, and they’ll intently stare at high-contrast objects.
I used contrast cards and all kinds of contrast toys and books with my babies until about four months of age.
How to Use Black and White Contrast Cards With a Baby
I always found it difficult to interact with my babies when they were under three months old.
Most of the time, they’re eating or sleeping, but for that window of wake time, I wondered – what can I do with my baby?
Reading books, singing, and just talking are great ways to interact with and play with your baby.
And infant stimulation cards are also a great tool to add to your rotation of ideas.
Any toy or book with contrasting patterns or images is fantastic for keeping baby stimulated during tummy time.
Contrast Cards During Tummy Time
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting tummy time the first day you get home from the hospital.
Two or three times a day, put your baby on their tummy for three to five minutes.
Even if your baby doesn’t seem to like it, this short window of time will help develop strong shoulder and neck muscles.
Over the next few months, you can gradually increase the time until baby has about an hour of tummy time per day.
While your baby is on her stomach, you can set the contrast cards near her to encourage her to lift her neck. The AAP also suggests placing a toy just out of reach to get her to reach for it.
If those kits are out of your price range, check out our Lovevery Amazon dupes series.
Recreating the entire play kit on Amazon is typically more expensive, but if you just want one or two items, Amazon has some good alternatives.
Another awesome option is this pack of Baby Visual Stimulation Cards from Hahaland (use code twomamabears53 to get 17% off).
These are really thick and durable and have plenty of contrasting images to show your newborn. The pack also has different age ranges in it so it’ll last you longer than those first few months of life.
And, of course, if you prefer to DIY, make these black and white contrast cards!
What You’ll Need
To create the DIY contrast cards, you need a few crafting supplies.
- Laminator (we love the Scotch brand – it works like a charm and is very affordable)
- Laminating sheets (Scotch brand is also our choice; I’ve tried inexpensive brands before, and they are NOT good)
- Regular paper, printer, and scissors
- Optional: Thick paper to make the contrast cards more durable (80lb paper)
- Optional: Corner punch to make the sharp edges round
- Optional: paper cutter
How to Assemble the DIY Contrast Cards
To assemble the contrast cards, simply print out the ones you like (there are eight pages total with two cards per page).
You don’t need to print all of these, but I wanted to give a good variety of options.
The card set starts with simple, large, black-and-white objects such as circles, triangles, and flowers. The last half of the card set has more complex black-and-white patterns.
We made sure to include contrasting images that mirrored what the authors did in the 1984 article referenced earlier, including shapes, a checkerboard, and schematic faces.
On the 3rd and 4th pages, you’ll see a smiling schematic face. The authors recommend lining up this face with your newborns to encourage visual stimulation and facial recognition.
Once you’ve decided which cards to print, it’s time to place your printed pages into your laminating sheet.
Run it through the laminator, cut the flashcard out, and round off the corners with your corner punch if you’d like. It couldn’t be easier!
Take a look at the images below to see just how easy it is:
Stimulating baby and encouraging healthy development makes you feel amazing as a parent, grandparent, or caregiver!
I love that these simple contrast cards have such an incredible impact on newborns, and they’re so easy to make yourself.
They also make a nice, low-cost baby shower gift if you prefer to make gifts by hand!
If you don’t have a laminator or prefer to buy contrast cards, I highly recommend the first two Lovevery play kits.
We used these daily with our infant, and I want to tear up at just how meaningful these kits were for our family. We watched our little guy hit important milestones thanks to these toys.
And if those are out of your price range, check out our Lovevery Amazon dupes series for budget-friendly alternatives.
Other printables you might like making:
- First Word, Everyday Objects Flashcard Printable for 6+ Months
- Free Matching Shapes Worksheet for Preschoolers
And a couple other articles you might want to check out next: