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 his development.
Engaging with Baby is the best way to help him get excited about the world, and because so many milestones have to do with his drive to explore, excitement about the world is important.
Empower, encourage, entice
Sometimes Baby just needs a little incentive to get moving. If he isn’t reaching out for or grasping things, it could just be that he isn’t seeing anything worth reaching for or grasping. If you place some objects he might be interested in just out of his reach, he might be more willing to reach out to try to get it. Having him reach for different objects with different shapes gives him the chance to work with different muscles and build dexterity. Similarly, you can encourage motion by giving him more of a reason to want to be, say, a few steps away by sitting nearby and calling him over to you.
Verbal milestones can follow a similar trajectory – the more you talk to him, the more incentive you give him to want to communicate right back. When you talk to him, waiting for him to respond helps to teach him about the rhythms and give-and-take of conversation, even if he isn&;t quite ready to talk back yet. Making eye contact when you talk to him can also help him with his 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 his 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 he sees every time somebody leaves for the day.
Sometimes literally, what Baby needs in order to reach a lot of his big milestones is the room to practice. If he has a safe space to roll, then scoot, then crawl around in, and enough time to spend there, he should start to experiment with what he can do. If he has something stable and the right height to pull up on, he is a lot more likely to move on to that stage of pre-walking than he would otherwise. And if he has a fair amount unsupervised and unscheduled time to explore, he is more likely to try new things than if he has 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 he has his own pace and his own set of priorities. Not following the established pattern for milestones may just mean that he is 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.