Critical Developmental Milestones You won’t want Your Child to Miss
As a parent, there are few things more exciting than watching your little ones learn a new skill. We cheer them on for something as simple as reaching for a toy for the first time all the way to taking those first steps and learning to tie their own shoes. It’s hard not to wonder in awe how they go from these little beings with little to no control over their bodies to being able to feed themselves and walk around like nobody’s business. And then, of course, it’s hard not to worry if our children are meeting these developmental milestones when they’re supposed to and if we’ve done something wrong when a child younger than ours crawls or stands or claps before ours does. To understand the solutions to our worries, we first need to understand a little how it all works.
The brain and the other components of the nervous system are quite possibly the most complex of the entire body. So I’ll do my best to break it down into the simplest terms I can. All of our movements, whether voluntary or involuntary, are controlled by specific portions of the brain devoted to motor skills. For coordinated movements, the sensory portions of the brain need to be developed and working with the motor portions as well. And these areas don’t come predeveloped obviously or our little newborns would come out grabbing, walking and sticking all those questionable items in their mouths from the get-go. So what causes them to develop? Well, for a long time, scientists thought that it was all based on genes. The average ages that our kiddos start learning these motor skills is so predictable that it seems crazy to assume that it could be anything other than genetic clockwork and those that were slower or quicker to develop just had genes that were taking their sweet time or ready to jump the gun. And to a certain extent, they were right. Our bodies have a set time frame for normal neurological development that facilitates learning our milestone motor skills.
So does that mean we can kick back and relax and just wait for our children’s genes and nervous system do all the work? Not quite. Working with our children might not affect how early they develop these skills, but we can affect the how refined and how quickly they develop the quality of motion and function. We can also boost their self-esteem and confidence by helping them achieve success more quickly.
One of the best things we can do to assist our kids with their developmental milestones is to provide a safe place for them to let their own curiosity and drive take hold. If we have plenty of childproof spaces that they can roam free with little worry for getting hurt or told no, they will naturally practice and refine the proper movements for their age.
The next thing we want to make sure we provide is a high sensory environment. As I mentioned before, coordinated movement requires the assistance of the sensory portion of the nervous system. So the better developed their senses are, the more accurate and precise their movements can become. But it’s more than that. High sensory environments provide children with motivation to move. Why learn to grasp and grab if there’s nothing to grasp or grab at? Why learn to crawl if I have nothing to chase after? Honing their senses opens up a wider world and therefore provides them with a reason to explore.
Who doesn’t like to receive positive responses from those around us when we accomplish something? Positive reinforcement works wonders for motivation and self-esteem. Encouragement can also come when we stand a few steps away from a child that’s showing signs of being ready to take steps or crawling and calling them to you. Happy voices, smiling faces and excitement are many times all the reward our children require.
So what are the development stages or developmental milestones and how is my child is progressing in those development stages? Here’s a chart to help:
|2 Months||Smiles at the sound of your voice and follows you with their eyes around the room.|
|3 Months||Raises head and chest when lying on stomach
Grasps objectsSmiles at other people
|4 Months||Babbles, laughs, and tries to imitate sounds
Holds head steady
|6 Months||Rolls from back to stomach and stomach to back
Moves objects in hands
|7 Months||Responds to own name
Finds partially hidden toys and household items
|9 Months||Sits without support, crawls, babbles, starts to say mom and dad’s name|
|12 Months||Walks with or without support
Says at least one word
Starts copying other people
|18 Months||Walks independently, drinks from a cup, says a few words, and points to body parts|
|2 Years||Runs and jumps
Speaks in two-word sentences
Follows simple instructions
Begins make-believe play
Speaks in multiword sentences
Sorts objects by shape and color
|4 Years||Gets along with people outside the family
Draws circles and squares
Rides a tricycle
|5 Years||Tells name and address
Jumps, hops, and skips
Counts 10 or more objects
Reaching those motor developmental milestones on time can be a worry, but it’s important to remember that when those around you address your concerns by telling you that your little one will take those steps when they’re ready, they’re right. So do what you can to assist them and keep in contact with your pediatrician. If your child falls too far outside the norm, they’ll be able to determine if your child needs extra attention and what steps need to be taken. Otherwise, provide a good environment and let that little genius in the making show you what they’re made of.
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