I thought I might stop at Motor Tips for Parents – Part 2 but after hanging out with my friend and her five month old baby the other day I was hit with inspiration (well actually she pointed out that what I told her might be helpful to other parents to know too).
- Development isn’t always linear – My friend was commenting that every time she would start to get concerned about the fact that her baby wasn’t reaching a skill/milestone (and didn’t appear to be even close to reaching that milestone) it was as if the next day all of a sudden they were performing the very same skill that she was concerned about. I have seen with a lot of the kids that I work with (for both developmental milestones and for more challenging motor skills) that often times the child is working on the pieces of a skill. For instance, if your child isn’t rolling over yet or even looking like they are attempting to, but they are on their belly and turning their head or lifting their bottom or trying to maneuver their arms, they are moving their body to try to figure out how their muscles work. They could be practicing different components such as weight shifting from side to side or activating their flexor muscles (abs) all of which are key ingredients for rolling over. After practicing the components all of a sudden (it seems like) they are able to put them together and perform the whole skill! So what I explained to my friend is that sometimes development can look like a series of steps as opposed to a smooth line. On the flat part of the step is when they are practicing the pieces and then all of a sudden they put it together and move up to the next step.
- Provide opportunities – I’m going to relate this one to tummy time but it can be related to almost any area of development such as drinking out of a cup, feeding, potty training, etc. When my friend first started doing tummy time with her baby he hated it (a common theme from parents) and someone told her not to worry about it because kids do things in their own time. I agree with this statement however kids need to be given the opportunity to try out and practice the skill. So in the case of tummy time, your child is never going to learn to love it or get the benefits of it unless they are given the opportunity to be on their belly. This can look like having them on their belly for brief periods of time on different surfaces such as a big exercise ball or on your chest (while you are lying down) or on a piece of kid safe mirror (they love looking at their reflection). If you give them short experiences of tummy time in different ways so that they are getting a new experience and they are distracted from the fact that they ‘don’t like’ tummy time, they can eventually get the hang of it and in the meantime they get to work on all the skills that tummy time supports so that they can better develop their gross motor abilities. By continually providing opportunities for a skill you are also more likely to figure out when ‘their own time’ is.