When you're a new parent, it's hard not to compare your child to other kids and worry about whether or not they're growing and changing norms.
It doesn't help that social media is full of proud parents and that there are many books and popular apps that claim to know exactly when a child should smile, roll over, take their first step, etc. It's hard not to wonder: Is my child falling behind?
It's important to keep an eye on how your child grows and changes. But here are some things to keep in mind as you do so:
Each child is unique. This is the most important thing to remember. Each child is different because they come from different places and have different families and lives. It's impossible for all children, even those raised by the same family, to grow up in the same way.
Normal is not a single thing. For example, we say that a child should be able to walk by the time he or she is one, but anything between 9 and 15 months is fine. Normal ranges are usually in the fine print of all those books and apps, but one age is usually the one that gets the most attention. This is sad, and it can cause many families to worry for no reason.
There are different parts of development, and children may go through them at different rates. A child may start walking early but take longer to learn to talk because walking is so much fun. A child may be so interested in learning to talk that walking may seem less fun. Children learn how to use their bodies, how to talk, how to get along with others, and how to understand the world around them. Each child learns these things in their own way. It's important to look at a child's development as a whole, not just one milestone at a time.
How to deal with your problems
Even if you can see the big picture, that doesn't mean you should ignore the fact that your child seems to be growing up differently than other kids. It also doesn't mean that all apps are bad. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a nice Milestone Tracker.
But you should talk to your doctor before you start to worry. You can also contact the Early Intervention program in your state and ask for a free evaluation. This program is for children younger than 3 years old whose parents or doctors are worried about how they are developing. If a child has a problem with how they are growing up, the program works with the family to help them help their child.
5 ways to help babies and young children grow up in a healthy way
Here are some ways to help your child grow and learn:
Have fun with your kids! The best way for a child to learn new skills is to spend time with other people, especially those who care about them.
Turn off the devices, both yours and your child's. Nothing beats getting real attention and talking to someone.
Let your child play on the floor for a while. Literally. Set them down in a clean area so they can learn to crawl and use their bodies in other ways.
Buy simple toys for your child that helps them learn and use their imaginations. Toys that make noise or play music are great, such as blocks, dolls, balls, cars, and pretend kitchen tools and utensils. It's better if it doesn't need batteries, though.
Tell your kids stories! It's a great way to teach them new words and get them interested in books, which is a gift in and of itself. It's also a great way to spend time with your child and grow closer to them.
Visit the Center on the Developing Child's website to learn more about how children grow and what parents and communities can do to help.