We all want our child to develop at a normal rate. Developmental milestones can be useful for tracking how well your child is growing and developing.
If a child hasn’t developed a certain skill or trait by a certain age, it could be a sign that they may have an underlying condition or health problem. By spotting signs early, you can provide the best care for your child going forward (for instance, finding out about a condition such as autism or cerebral palsy early could allow you to look into educational support, therapy and financial support is necessary).
Below is a more detailed guide to developmental milestones and when to worry about developmental delays.
What are some important milestones?
There are a few major milestones that can give you a good idea of whether a child is developing properly. The include:
Babies can sometimes make smiling expressions while passing gas. However, between 6 and 8 weeks they should be starting to express joy by smiling. If a baby reaches 3 months and is not smiling, it could be an early sign of autism.
4 to 5 months is the average age when children learn object permanence – an important milestone that can show awareness of the world (and often the first source of humor for babies). At this age, when playing peekaboo, babies should go from responding with shock to responding with giggles. This shows healthy brain development.
Between 6 and 9 months babies should begin learning to sit on their own. If a baby cannot sit on their own beyond this age, it could be an early sign of motor delay.
Holding a bottle
Babies often learn how to hold things such as their bottle between the ages of 6 and 10 months. This can show that they are developing healthy motor skills.
You can expect babies to start crawling between 7 and 10 months. Some babies never crawl at all and may instead shuffle on their bum, moving straight to walking.
Learning to walk is one of the milestones that parents look forward to the most (although once they start, you’ll wish they stayed crawling!). The age range for this milestone can be quite big – some babies learn as early as 6 months old, while some children don’t start walking independently until they’re almost 2 years old.
Babies often say their first words at around 6 or 7 months, however they may not know what they’re saying until they’re a year old. From here on they will learn more and more words. There are various vocabulary and grammar milestones that you can use throughout your little one’s childhood.
Kids start learning to read between 4 years and 7 years. This is one of the last big milestones and can be worth keeping track of – difficulty learning to read could be a sign of dyslexia.
What should I do if my child isn’t reaching certain milestones?
As a parent you should try to be patient – some kids can reach milestones later than average and may not necessarily have any health problem or condition.
If your child seems to be late to reach multiple milestones or has not reached a milestone many weeks after they should, you may want to consider seeing a doctor or a child health advisor. This can allow you to get any potential condition diagnosed early.
Why is a diagnosis important? It could allow you to access specialist support for your child to help with their future development. Kids can be taught to overcome various impediments such as speech problems by seeking out services such as children speech pathology. You may even be able to help children with autism develop essential social skills. Often it is easier to teach these skills to kids at a younger age, which is why getting a diagnosis early is beneficial .
Of course, not all conditions can be improved or treated. In these cases, a diagnosis can still be useful – you may be able to get access to financial support, as well as advice on how to care for your child as they grow. For instance, if a physical disability is likely to mean that your child will need a wheelchair, you can start making improvements to your home early and can start seeking out specialist support.
How to keep track of milestones
There are many apps and sites that you can use to keep track of milestones. Consider checking in on these every so often. Your instincts will sometimes tell you when something is wrong, however you shouldn’t allow yourself to get into a panic. Developmental issues are common – few children are completely ‘normal’ in terms of having no health problems or conditions. Spotting abnormalities early is what matters so that you can get your child the support they need.