Babies are born very immature and helpless, but they develop very quickly and their individuality emerges in fascinating ways. Parent’s role in this development is very important and there are many ways in which you can help stimulate your baby and bring out the best in them.
Understanding this development and knowing when your baby passes important milestones helps equip parents better in their supportive role. The more information a parent has the more they will be able to recognise these growth spurts and help their babies cope with these new and stimulating skills and sensations. However, parents should be aware that every baby is in an individual and may not reach milestones exactly on schedule. Genetics and personality can influence when your baby reaches a milestone.
Some babies develop more quickly than others. It is not clear why rates of progress differ; trends can run in families: a toddler who is late in becoming dry at night may have a parent who was also later than the average. Even so, all babies acquire skills in the same sequence; for instance, your baby will sit before he can stand.
Parents often think that passing a milestone is a measure of intelligence, but this is not the case. Intellect has little bearing on, say, walking. In reality, a child’s personality is more important than his IQ. To learn a new skill a baby must practice perfecting this skill over and over again (practice makes perfect). How your baby reacts to failure during this acquisition stage can have a significant bearing on how quickly they pick up the new skill. Some babies may try the new skill, find they can’t do it, become frustrated and leave trying again for a few months. Another may try, fail, become frustrated but are still spurred on to try again until they have mastered the skill. If your baby is placid and laid-back, they may not practice new skills with the same enthusiasm as a baby who is determined to be independent.
Parents need know that their baby will only acquire a new skill when they are both ready and interested in doing so. However, environment can also have a large bearing on your baby’s development and providing the right amount of stimulation is important:
- too little stimulation means that your baby might not develop to their full potential. Poor environment leads to poor learning. The stimulation a baby gets must match their needs.
- too much stimulation can be bewildering and a ‘hot-housed’ baby will not learn new skills any faster, because his brain is not ready to take in so much information.
A baby’s physical growth is inextricably linked with their intellectual, social and emotional development. Babies will not learn a new skill until the cognitive development required for this action has been achieved. Brain development always happens before the physical development can happen. Social and emotional factors can then exert their influence. Babies learn best through play and imitation and your positive feedback is essential in this process.
Gross Motor Development Milestones (per World Health Organization data)
Sitting without support 5.9 months
Hands-and-knees crawling 8.3 months
Walking with assistance 9 months
Standing alone 10.8 months
Walking alone 12 months
These are averages and to see the complete length of the window of achievement for all the above follow this link to the WHO chart: http://www.who.int/childgrowth/standards/mm_windows_graph.pdf?ua=1 For example, the average for sitting with assistance is 5.9 months but the full window is from approx. 3.8 months to 9.2 months. As you can see there is quite a spread!
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