At 4 months Noah began sitting, using her hands to help her. At 5 months she could sit by herself perfectly. At 6 months she could pull up and stand. Now at 7 months she is crawling, can go from laying down to sitting and is currently in the practicing stages of trying to stand up without grabbing onto anything for help.
It is true, children develop at their own pace but there are things you can be doing that will slow down or help promote their development.
As a psychology student focusing on children I took lots of notes while pregnant in order to ensure I was supporting healthy child development. Here is a short list of ways I helped promote Noah’s development, I followed these, did my own research on them, and practiced with my own child.
- Ditch the Bumbo Chair,
Walkers, Exercise Saucers and Bouncy Seats
These gadgets are nightmares for physical therapists and all your baby’s doctors that are tracking their development. These gizmos advertise that they help speed up development but that is a lie. Studies have shown that children who use these ‘assisted movement toys’ actually reach physical developmental milestones slower than children who do not use them.
The reason they are not helpful is because they confine babies and cause them to move and sit in ways that are not natural to the baby. For example, the bumbo/other baby seats have them sitting straight up, when a baby first learns to sit they will not sit like that at all. They will sit with legs wide and hands propping them up. This ‘tripod’ sitting is how they learn but when they are in these seats they have no way to practice or begin trying to sit.
Doctors, physicians and really any professional in child development has been trying to spread this information for decades but new fancy gadgets keep coming out and as parents who just want the best for our children we become consumers of these bouncers and walkers and assume they will help without doing any outside research. Here is an exert from an abstract from a 1999 study. “This study analyzed motor and mental development in 109 human infants, with and without walker experience, between the ages of 6 and 15 months. Walker-experienced infants sat, crawled, and walked later than no-walker controls, and they scored lower on Bayley scales of mental and motor development. Significant effects of walker type, frequency, and timing of walker exposure were observed” (Siegel 1999).
Here is a more recent exert from the Chicago Tribune interviewing a physical therapist, Colleen Harper. “No equipment enhances a child’s motor development; equipment is a ‘baby sitter’ so that a parent can cook dinner, eat dinner or take a shower,” Harper said. “A gross motor skill like sitting is achieved through movement and practice. Children fall out of Bumbo seats because they do not yet have the requisite strength, balance and coordination needed for sitting” (Chicago Tribune 2018).
The only way to help your child develop is through play and attention. I would sit Noah in between my legs and we would play, or I would surround her with pillows so she could learn on her own without any chance of injury but did give her a chance to learn what to and not to do.
I understand if you are alone with baby or are a single parent maybe you think not having any of these would be impossible. My suggestion is invest in a Pack and Play. They are portable, netted and soft so that a baby can tumble and fall without harm. Putting a child in one of these if you have to walk a way can be better for the child so that they can still practice sitting, standing or crawling.
Deardorff, J. (2018, September 05). Therapists see no developmental benefits from seats. https://www.chicagotribune.com/living/ct-xpm-2012-03-15-ct-met-bumbo-posture-20120315-story.html
Siegel, A. C., & Burton, R. V. (1999). Effects of baby walkers on motor and mental development in human infants. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 20(5), 355–361. https://doi.org/10.1097/00004703-199910000-00010 V
- Visual Stimulation
Screen time is a very tricky issue. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests to avoid screen time for children under 2 years old. Screen time usage in children adds risk to obesity and language development issues.
Do not give your children phones and prop them in front of the tv. I will say however for the first 6 months of Noah’s life once a day for 5-10 minutes I would go on to youtube and type in and play ‘Baby Visualization Videos’. These are videos that show bright colors and simple images while playing instrumental music. I believe this really helped Noah’s ability to focus and follow things with her eyes.
Screen time is a delicate issue. It has the power to be helpful and harmful. My rule of thumb is if you’re giving it to them to make them be quiet or so you can have uninterrupted computer time that’s not helpful. If you are doing it with them and using the internet as a useful tool to help them then it can be good.
We do not have a ton of research on this as ‘baby visualization videos’ and ‘screen time’ are still pretty new considering the average study takes a year to create and publish we do not have too much to go off with this.
- Talking to Them
Talk to your child. This will help their language skills immensely. Make a conscious effort to hold conversations with your baby. For example, I tell Noah our plans for that day every morning while we eat breakfast. I will let her know what errands we are running or what we are doing when we are in the car and I try reading to her as often as possible.
Reading to your child can help combat screen time, create an early interest in reading and help development. What I typically do is read the page then I will point at objects in the book, “oh look, that’s an orange cat” “That Pink Flower is….” “Right here is some red pants“. Reading not only helps develop language skills but also can help them learn colors and objects at earlier ages.
From personal experience. My niece is 2, at 1 1/2 years old she knew her basic colors. My mamaw would read to her constantly, and point out colors, and the family was encouraged to point out colors and objects to her all the time. “Jaxtyn, your wearing a pink dress” and we then eventually played games with her, “find me something blue”, or “what color is this?”. Now at 2 she knows all her colors and is advanced in her language skills.
- Playing With Them
In this day and age it is so easy to hand them an ipad and go do your own thing. It’s helpful, it makes them sit on the couch and they could be mesmerized for hours, this is not natural for a child or helpful in their development.
Sitting down and playing with your baby benefits them in so many ways. It helps bonding, promotes independence, helps physical, mental, and language development, and keeps them active and healthy.
My biggest issue right now is wanting to play on my phone while i’m on the floor with her but I am actively trying to stop this. Get them building block or stacking toys (those are noah’s favorites), toys they can pull up on and ones that promote fine motor skills such as puzzles. My favorite baby toy brand is Melissa & Doug .I have yet to find a Melissa & Doug toy that I don’t absolutely love. Noah’s favorite toy is their stack and sort board.Right now it is only helping her fine motor skills but then it will help when she learns colors and shapes and eventually be used to help her with numbers!
- Provide an Environment That Encourages Growth
This can mean many things. Your child has to have their needs their basic needs met, if they are not getting enough food, shelter, warmth, and or they do not have a sense of security they will not develop adequately. They need a safe place where they feel safe enough to explore, try new things and do so without risk of harm.
They also need an encouraging environment where their caregivers give positive reinforcement and attention so that they want to develop. If they are in a house that is chaotic then that is not fostering baby’s development.
In my house Noah does not fear trying new things or exploring the house. As I mentioned before, when Noah first started sitting I would surround her with pillows. She lost her balance a lot but she was in a safe place and never got hurt. She did not mind trying to sit again, and did not fear getting hurt. When she started pulling up I would sit a pulling up toy and again surround her with pillows. I let her fail and fall, but ensured she never got hurt. Doing this let her try stuff out and she was in an environment where she could fail safely. I know many babies learn to pull up in their cribs, the baby doesn’t mind falling and will quickly try again because it is a safe environment to fail.
You don’t need expensive toys and shiny gadgets to help your child excel. You just need dedication and willingness to focus your attention on them.
I hope you all enjoyed this read! As always, drop me some comments! What are your thoughts on this issue? What ways do you promote your child’s development?