Children develop in a predictable sequence but it is important to remember all children develop differently. Variability in achieving their milestones is normal. All children have unique strengths and personalities which we can see from day one that dictate what activities they like to practice!
As healthcare professionals, we track developmental milestones as we know early identification of infants who are struggling is important. The first 1001 days from conception up to the first two years of a child's life is when loving relationships and opportunities to nurture developmental activities play a critical role in influencing a child’s long term health and skills.
“This period lays the foundation for every child’s future health, wellbeing, learning and earnings potential. It sets the groundwork for children’s developing emotional wellbeing, resilience and adaptability; the competencies they need to thrive. During this period we can lay a foundation of health and wellbeing whose benefits last a lifetime – and carry into the next generation.” The parent infant foundation, 2019.
As healthcare professionals we keep an extra eye on those children who have had a trickier start to life. Getting early support makes a significant positive impact on the child’s developing body and brain.
As a parent it is important to remember as healthcare professionals we are talking about a very small number of children. We look for clusters of challenges across their early development. A child who is not yet doing a specific skill such as clapping or releasing a toy into a pot is more than likely just a reflection of their personality.
There are lots of things you can do as a family to help. As hard as it can be if you are concerned, try not to compare your child or become overly focused on comparing your child to those you socialise with. Instead stop and think about what their likes and preferences are across the five milestone areas.
1. Physical skills: What do they like to do from a physical gross motor and fine motor perspective? What are they doing with their oral motor feeding skills?
2. Cognitive skill: what do they like to play with? Are they showing the ability to think, learn, remember and solve basic problems after modelling?
3. Social and emotional skills: Do they show a range of cues? Do they have strategies to get your attention or to try to self soothe and regulate? Do they like and tolerate a range of sensory experiences?
4. Communication skills: Do they respond to you and changes in your voice, do they show joint attention on toys with you? How do they respond when you take turns?
5. Visual perceptual skills: What do they like looking at and finding in their environment? What are their preferences?
Explore how playing with your child can stimulate these five play areas, use their likes and preferences to encourage them in areas they have less interest. For example looking at favourite light up toys during tummy time for short periods when they are calm and settled. Remember you are their favourite toy, you are their world and your parental love is the most important thing they need to achieve.
If you are concerned seek advice from informed sources such as ‘NHS Start 4 Life’ resources. Contact your local health visitor or discuss your concerns with a health care professional such as a specialist children’s physiotherapist, occupational therapist and speech and language therapist or your child care provider.
Childrens Occupational Therapist & child development expert at B-Independent Therapy and Baby Groups who offer a range of baby groups and early intervention services.