Marking the milestones

Marking the milestones

When should your baby start smiling? Is it ok if she hasn't sat up at six months? How long will the tantrum stage last? We all worry about the milestones our little ones should be hitting, but never fear - child development expert Dr Philippa Kaye shares her advice to allay your concerns

Milestones

Is my child developing correctly?

Parents often worry whether or not their child is developing as expected. There is a wide variety in the times that children will learn new skills, for example a child may start walking at 11 or 17 months, but both of these time frames are within the range of expected development. If you are concerned about your child's development then do see your health visitor or doctor.

What can I do to encourage my child's development?

Children learn through play, so everyday activities are both learning challenges and playtime. Playing with playdough encourages core strength by sitting up for a period of time, fine motor skills as you handle the dough (rolling into sausages or balls, kneading, cutting), language skills as you talk about what you are doing, cognitive skills as you learn about colour and social skills as you practise turn taking or play at playdough mealtimes. The possibilities for learning through play are endless!

Why are they standing/walking/talking later than their siblings?

Children develop and obtain new skills in the same order but at different times and there is a variety of ages at which children will develop each skill. So it is possible, and indeed likely, that you may have one child who was gabbling away at two months and another who does not say very much for another six months or so, and both will be within the expected ranges of language development. Hard as it is, try not to compare your child to their siblings or your friends' children.

How can I manage my child's behaviour?

Much of the behaviour associated with two- and three-year-olds, such as tantrums and not sharing, are related to their development. A child who has limited speech cannot tell you why they are upset or angry, but they certainly feel it and therefore it can be expressed by tears and tantrums. As for sharing, the average two-year-old simply doesn't understand why they should share!

As your child grows up they learn to balance increasing independence with still being dependent on you, and this is a challenge. Having an understanding of why your child is acting the way that they are may help you find strategies to deal with the behaviour, for example explaining to a child that they are feeling angry, or giving a time out or a distraction to prevent a tantrum.

Eating habits

Many parents are (understandably so) anxious about their child's eating habits. Are they eating enough, are they eating the right things and why won't they eat anything apart from bread or chips? Children's eating habits do change, from opening their mouth to anything that you put in it, to not wanting to try anything new at all. This is actually a normal part of development, frustrating as it can be. You may need to offer your child the same new food over and over again before they are willing to try it and actually eat it. As long as your child is growing then they are likely to be getting sufficient nutrients, so try and keep mealtimes relaxed and an enjoyable, family activity. Keep offering a variety of different foods and with time they are likely to join in.

Dr Philippa Kaye is a practising GP and mother of three, specialising in child development. Her book, The First Five Years, is out now.

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