Developmental milestones are divided into five categories — language and communication, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, social skills and cognition. Indeed, many parents believe that if their child meets their developmental milestones early, junior may be a budding genius.
Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, states that this is nothing more than a misconception. He stresses that it’s important to remember that all babies develop at different rates.
“While we may need to be worried about a significant delay in developmental milestones, there’s no truth to show that faster developmental milestones [means that your child] has higher IQ or abilities.” Dr Lim adds that this belief has only led parents to become anxious when their kewpie doesn’t meet their milestones in a timely manner.
“If we focus too much on the ‘goals’…that we set for our little ones, we’ll forget to be fully present with our child. These moments with our kids are too precious to be missed!”
As most children in Singapore see their paediatricians quite regularly in the first year of life, Dr Lim reasons, your child’s developmental milestones would be well documented and monitored. He advises, “Should you feel that there may be any delay, don’t speculate, verify with your child’s paediatrician immediately.”
Joy Ong Shu Xin, a senior counsellor and play therapist, cautions that the intense focus on your child’s milestones isn’t just unhealthy for then, as it can be detrimental to your relationships, too.
“If we focus too much on the ‘goals’ [and see them as] ‘KPIs’ (key performance indicators) that we set for our little ones, we’ll forget to be fully present with our child. These moments with our kids are too precious to be missed!”
Both Dr Lim and Ong list important facts you may not know about your child’s milestones…
1. Developmental milestones don’t occur in a predictable way The child development process is dynamic, Ong notes. It is also filled with surprises — both pleasant and possibly challenging ones. Ong explains that your little one grows and develops in spurts and regressions can also be expected even as they try to master a new skill.
2. Your child’s temperament matters, too Dr Lim explains, “Children who adapt more slowly may not attempt walking even when they have developed the motor skills to do so.” On the other hand, very active babies may start to attempt taking steps as soon as they can stand.
Ong points out that your little one’s personality can also affect their development in the following ways:
* Flexible temperament These children tend to adapt quickly and easily to situations, even new places or transitions. So, they will be more interested in social interactions, have regular routines and may be in good mood most of the time.
* Fearful temperament He or she will tend to struggle with new changes and transitions such as meeting unfamiliar people or encountering unfamiliar objects.
3. Siblings don’t meet their milestones at the same rate, but twins do Dr Lim says in general, there is a tendency for siblings to meet their milestones at an almost similar time. However their gender and temperament also play a part, as does whether they were born full-term or preemies. Boys tend to lag behind girls in terms of the time they take to meet their milestones. Premature babies are also more likely to develop slower than their peers born at full-term. However, Dr Lim points out fraternal and identical twins can be expected to meet their milestones at about the same rate.
4. Parents with preemies should compare against adjusted ages Dr Lim explains, “If the child is 15 weeks old, but was born 5 weeks early, you should subtract 5 from 15. This gives you 10 weeks.” This is the adjusted age for your child and it tells you the right set of milestones they should be meeting. The adjusted age will apply until your child becomes 2 years of age because that is when most children would have catch up to the normal range, says Dr Lim.
“Having [strong bonds] with the child, giving them a safe environment, and lots of opportunities to play in their initial years of life ensures proper development.”
5. Standardised milestones do not apply to children with special needs or autism If your child shows a significant delay or deviation in his milestones, there is the possibility they may have special needs or autism. Dr Lim states once diagnosed, these standardised milestones no longer apply. “Getting treatment to help your child meet their developmental milestones on their own timeline will be very helpful in giving them a much better outcome in the long run.”
6. These milestones apply to the first five years of your child’s life It is the first five years of your mini-me’s life where they undergo rapid development and growth, explains Dr Lim. So, it’s most important to monitor their development during this period. That said, developmental milestones can apply until your child becomes an adult.
7. Build strong bonds to boost your child’s development While many toys claim to boost your child’s ability to meet their milestones, Dr Lim notes that spending time to build strong relationships with your child is still the most beneficial for their development.
8. Check in early with your doctor if you suspect bubba has a developmental delay If your child lags behind in his milestones a great deal, it may signify developmental delays and other underlying problems. Dr Lim stresses that it’s important to start treatment as early as possible, since it can really help to rectify the problem.
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