Babyhood is a marathon, not a race, but that doesn’t mean parents don’t occasionally worry about when their children will reach certain developmental milestones. It’s important to remember that the timeframes given for milestones are rough estimates, so it’s possible to be a bit early or late on some without necessarily meaning anything about Baby‘s development. That said, there are a few things you can do to help promote their development.
Engaging with Baby is the best way to help them get excited about the world, and because so many milestones have to do with their drive to explore, excitement about the world is important.
Empower, encourage, entice
Sometimes Baby just needs a little incentive to get moving. If they isn’t reaching out for or grasping things, it could just be that they isn’t seeing anything worth reaching for or grasping. If you place some objects they might be interested in just out of their reach, they might be more willing to reach out to try to get it. Having them reach for different objects with different shapes gives them the chance to work with different muscles and build dexterity. Similarly, you can encourage motion by giving them more of a reason to want to be, say, a few steps away by sitting nearby and calling them over to you.
Verbal milestones can follow a similar trajectory – the more you talk to them, the more incentive you give them to want to communicate right back. When you talk to them, waiting for them to respond helps to teach them about the rhythms and give-and-take of conversation, even if they isn&;t quite ready to talk back yet. Making eye contact when you talk to them can also help them with their growing social skills.
When it comes to communication milestones like words or gestures, you can help Baby out a lot just by being consistent with your vocabulary. If you’re calling the family dog “the dog,” one day, “doggy,” the next, “puppy,” the day after that, with the occasional “Fluffy” thrown in, Baby is definitely going to have a harder time deciding what to shout out when their fuzzy friend comes running into the room.
The same goes for gestures – Baby is more likely to start waving goodbye if that’s the gesture they see every time somebody leaves for the day.
Sometimes literally, what Baby needs in order to reach a lot of their big milestones is the room to practice. If they have a safe space to roll, then scoot, then crawl around in, and enough time to spend there, they should start to experiment with what they can do. If they have something stable and the right height to pull up on, they are a lot more likely to move on to that stage of pre-walking than they would otherwise. And if they have a fair amount unsupervised and unscheduled time to explore, they are more likely to try new things than if they have less time to play around and experiment.
It’s good advice if you’re hitchhiking across the galaxy, and it’s a good idea if you’re raising an infant too. Baby may be focusing on learning one set of skills now, and have to play a little bit of catch-up later, but they have their own pace and their own set of priorities. Not following the established pattern for milestones may just mean that they are going to be a little bit of a maverick, and venture off the beaten path a bit – every family needs a maverick. If you have any concerns about Baby‘s development, don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare provider about it.