When we look at overall developmental patterns for little ones, it is so important to ensure that parents have a realistic expectation of what their child should be working on at each stage. It is so easy to get caught in the trap of comparing our children to others – you know how it goes. “My son walked at 9 months!” “My baby was crawling at 4 months” “My baby rolled at 6 weeks”, etc. Remember: typical ranges for attaining milestones are RANGES for a reason…there is A LOT of variability in children’s development. Some kids will walk at 9 months. Some will walk at 17 months. Both are just fine.
Children will meet their developmental milestones in their own timeline – some milestones may be reached more quickly than others. As parents and caregivers, we often focus on the physical, especially gross motor milestones of rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking but there is SO MUCH MORE going on developmentally!
It is critical that as our children develop, we provide them with learning opportunities and activities that are developmentally appropriate – trying to rush or train our child to move through to the next stage too early may actually be detrimental to their development.
Our children’s physical, cognitive, communication, and emotional development builds on previously mastered skills. For example, before they can sit independently, children need to develop their cervical spinal (neck) curve through tummy time and have a thoracic spine (midback) that is capable of supporting their truck in an upright position. Before speaking, children need to understand what’s spoken to them.
The same principle applies to cognitive development, communication skills, social emotional functioning, adaptive behaviour (life skills), and physical development.
So…how can we best support our children in their development?
Physical development is best fostered by giving children ample opportunities to be on the floor (safely!) to learn how their body works against gravity, the floor, or other surfaces in pull, push, and reach movements. Extended time spent in “baby containers” that do not allow free movement may be detrimental to development. A good rule of thumb is that if a child can attain a position independently, their body is ready for it and using a container such as a Bumbo seat or Exersaucer is just fine. If your kiddo can’t sit up or slumps forward in a “container”, they aren’t ready for it yet.
Like physical development, cognitive, communicative,social emotional, and adaptive behaviour development all need opportunities and experiences to support learning and development.
How about toys – which are best for development?
The more a toy does for your child, the less it facilitates development. The more your child has to manipulate a toy, or the more ways your child can use a toy, the better it is for development.
As an Occupational Therapist in Toronto, some of my top recommendations are:
- Shape sorting containers
- Stacking toys
- Busy or Quiet-time books
- Bead rollercoasters
- Colouring books, crayons, drawing pads, paints
Top Occupational Therapist-recommended play activities include:
- Playing outside
- Messy play
- Arts and crafts
- Swinging, safe climbing, slides
- Rolling down hills
- READING with a caregiver
Have more questions?
Unsure if your child is meeting milestones? Reach out to our Occupational Therapist who can complete an assessment and provide individualized strategies for your child and family – we’re here to help!