Aimee Bolinger, MPT
Physical Therapist

Congratulations! You have made it successfully through your pregnancy, and now have a sweet bundle of joy in your arms. As you drove home with your baby strapped securely in their car seat, did the thought pass through your mind, “I can’t believe they are actually letting me take this child home, now what do I do?!?” Children do not come with instruction books. Fortunately, there are many valuable resources out there to help you along on your parenting journey! Your Great Aunt Sally’s advice may not be the only thing you want to use as a guide. We all want to know how to feed our children, bathe them, clothe them, and know just when will they roll over or take their first steps! The first few years of a child’s life are a time of rapid cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and motor development. Children advance in many areas of development at once in a predictable, yet unique manner individual to the child, based on their health, environment, and even personality! We have provided resources to use as a checklist for your child’s development. However, be careful to avoid comparisons with other children in your play groups, family, etc. The ages at which children develop different skills can vary greatly. Resources give an “average age” to look for children to start doing certain skills. Some children may walk by 9-months. Other children may not walk until they are 15-months old, or, even later! The most important thing is for your child to make progress in their development.

What can a parent(s) do to promote meeting the appropriate physical milestones such as sitting-up and rolling over?

Gross Motor Developmental Milestone, Figure 1

Gross Motor Developmental Milestone, Figure 1

Developmental checklists are a wonderful tool for parents to use to encourage their child to continue to “take the next step” in their development. Use the checklists to guide your play with your child, and offer opportunities for developmental play experiences. Start with short periods of play and include your child’s current abilities and interests. Early on, babies love to look at faces and listen to your voice. Get down on the floor with them and play! Don’t try to force or push milestones that they do not seem interested in or ready for, but instead continue to offer opportunities to try out new skills while they practice ones that are already comfortable. Often, a child will practice, practice, practice and all of a sudden just “figure it out.” They may move from lying on their back and grasping their toes to rolling over. Or, they may cruise along the coffee table, and one day take a few steps over to the sofa. Children learn through play!

 

When should a parent(s) be concerned about their child’s development? When should they see their pediatrician?

If your child does not fit exactly into the milestone charts, do not panic. There are many factors that play into achieving developmental milestones. A child may be simply missing out on the opportunity to learn and explore movement if they are held too much or spend too much time in baby equipment that limits movement, i.e. baby carriers, swings, etc. Time spent in free play on the floor or in the crib is the best option for most for building motor skills and head control. For example, children prepare to learn to sit by strengthening the core muscles and neck muscles primarily through the act of rolling! Or, there may be a delay in motor skills due to prematurity or an underlying diagnosis. Always discuss any concerns you have with your child’s development with your pediatrician.  They are there for you and your baby! 

How can physical therapy provide assistance?

From the NICU to Early Intervention (0-3 years) to School Age children, Pediatric Physical Therapists are an integral part of a child’s primary health care team. It is never too early to discuss your child’s developmental concerns with your Pediatrician. Pediatric Physical Therapists promote independence, increased participation, facilitate motor development and function, improve strength and endurance, enhance learning opportunities, and ease challenges of daily care giving (1). A physical therapist will also work with you and your child to improve their gross motor skills, i.e. rolling, sitting, walking, etc. and provide you with educational opportunities for learning these skills at home. 

Recommended References to Learn More: 

(1)    https://pediatricapta.org/includes/fact-sheets/pdfs/09%20ABCs%20of%20Ped%20PT.pdf

References are for informational purposes only and they are not intended to replace physician and/or physical therapy treatment(s).