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Follow the child: A mindful approach to meeting milestones

Bella Heim

Bella Heim

Bella is a mummy of three, writer, and photographer. She's not afraid to admit that she relies on a little red wine to keep the chaos of motherhood at bay. When she's not dodging toys and dirty diapers, you'll find her documenting the wild and wonderful ride of parenthood, and adding a splash of inspiration, creativity, and a healthy dose of mum humour along the way.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 7 mins read
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Have you ever had one of those days when parenting feels like you’re wrestling with IKEA furniture assembly and you’ve misplaced the instructions? Oh boy, I totally get it. Even with three kiddos under my belt, I’m still stumbling through nappy changes, powering through midnight feedings, and puzzling over those mysterious developmental milestones. 


I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve caught myself in a flurry of worry, wondering if my little ones are keeping up with the other kids. Take Charlie for instance: when he was at 17 months, he wasn’t walking yet. And let me tell you, that really had me on edge. I was constantly wondering what I was doing wrong and even questioned myself as a parent. But you know what? He got there eventually, and now he’s so quick on his feet, I can hardly keep up!

Parenting goes beyond ensuring your child ‘meets milestones.’ It’s about understanding their unique growth pattern, nurturing their individuality, and crafting an environment where they feel cherished, safe, and curious about their surroundings. As parents, we aren’t simply observers. Instead, we’re deeply involved in this incredible journey of growth and learning.

So, instead of losing sleep and nudging our kids to hit those milestones before they’re ready, how about we cool our jets a bit? We can take a step back, tackle these milestones with a laid-back attitude, and really focus on what they’re actually learning. It takes a whole heap of stress off our shoulders, and hey, it may even make the journey just a little bit easier!

How can I help my child meet milestones with a mindful approach?


When discussing milestones, it is very important to remember it’s not a race. It’s about acknowledging every stride our little ones takes as they transform from vulnerable infants into lively, self-reliant individuals. That first gummy smile, the unstable first steps, the magical moment they call you ‘mama’ or ‘dada’ – these aren’t just milestones. They’re beautiful episodes in your child’s life story.

So, why this mindful approach? Because it builds a solid groundwork for your child’s well-being and creativity. It fosters a positive and resilient approach to life, a quality we’d all love to instill in our children, isn’t it?


Supporting children’s play and learning


In our child’s early life narrative, we play the leading role. We’re their first teacher, their confidante, their safe harbor. But how can we guide our little ones to achieve their milestones?

Embrace a simple belief: “Follow the child.” This means observing your child, understanding their interests, and then arranging an environment that nurtures those interests. This notion forms the heart of children’s play and learning. It involves responding to your child’s cues, sparking their curiosity, and giving them the freedom to explore and learn.

If your little one has a toy they love, why not find similar ones to engage their senses? If your toddler enjoys playing with blocks, arrange a safe space for their architectural creations. In this way, milestones evolve from a strict static checklist into a dynamic journey of exploration.


How tracking children’s progress can enhance learning?


Tracking your little ones’ progress may seem formal and just a little over the top, but it’s actually far from it. It’s about celebrating every achievement, big or small, and truly understanding their unique pace of development. Writing down these memories in a diary or a note on your phone can be a fun way to capture these golden moments.

Why bother doing this? As you note down progress, you gain deep insights into your child’s developmental journey, their strengths, and areas that might need a bit of extra attention. This awareness helps you fine-tune your interactions and create an environment that enriches their learning experience. This habit nurtures you into a more mindful parent, and lets you treasure your child’s individuality while growing alongside them.

Three guiding principles to map milestones


Using developmental milestones as a guide to navigate your child’s growth? Keep these three principles in mind:

Taking a child-focused perspective: Remember, just like everyone else, each child is an individual with their own unique personality and path. Consider developmental milestones more as helpful signposts on a map, rather than a rigid, set-in-stone timetable. For us parents, it’s all about exercising patience, cultivating an environment that allows your child to naturally bloom at their own pace, and celebrating their individual triumphs. This approach isn’t just about acknowledging that every child is unique; it’s about appreciating these differences and nurturing them. It’s not a race, but a beautiful journey, and every step your child takes is worthy of celebration (no matter how big or small, and how fast or slow).

Big picture growth:  Kids don’t just grow in one way, they’re learning on all fronts – physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and linguistically. They are really juggling all these different balls at once. So, what is our role? To be their cheerleader for every single one of these areas. It’s about creating a balanced environment that supports and cheers on their all-around growth. Because every piece of the puzzle is important in piece in their unique journey.

Teaming up with the pros: Building a solid bond with your child’s doctor or teachers can really make a difference in your journey as parents.  These people are the ones with the expert advice, handy resources, and they can help you decode the mysteries of your child’s development and address any worries you might have. Consider them as your supporters to help you with this crazy, wonderful journey of raising little humans.

Learning through play


In those tender, early years of our kids’ lives, play isn’t just child’s play – it’s their personal mission to figure out their world, to tinker with fresh ideas, and to really start making sense of everything around them. And it might seem super simple to us, but this whole ‘playing’ thing? It’s actually the stepping-stone for all their learning and growing up.

Take a moment and imagine you’re back to being a tiny human in a world where everything’s still sparkly new and just begging to be discovered. Every teddy bear, every game of peekaboo, every chat with mummy and daddy is like going on a thrilling new escapade, a chance to learn something cool. And it’s while they’re on this expedition of discovery that they start ticking off those developmental milestones.

So, what’s our role in this sometimes head-spinning adventure? Well, it’s simpler than you think – we’ve just got to learn to be patient, stay switched on, and most importantly, embrace mindful parenting.

Being mindful means we’re not just sitting on the sidelines while our kids play. Nope, we’re right there in the thick of it, tuned into their interests, and flexing our support to match their pace. This isn’t about us taking the reins, far from it. We’re just there to create a cozy, encouraging space where they feel bold and comfy enough to explore, learn, and grow at their own rhythm.

This laid-back approach doesn’t just take the heat off our kids to ‘hit targets’ or live up to any expectations, but it also lets us really appreciate and throw a mini party for our child’s unique journey. So, instead of sweating over why your sweetheart hasn’t started walking while his playdate has, we can relish watching him nail his bear crawling game or become a pro at a new skill he’s into.

Embracing this mindful, attentive style of parenting lays the groundwork for inspiring a sense of well-being and creativity in our little ones. So, take a moment to pause, to breathe it all in, and to really savour the journey. I really love the saying: “Don’t wish your baby away,” meaning sometimes we always want our kids to do the next thing and forgetting to celebrate them for who they are right in this moment because here is exactly where they are meant to be.


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Ages and stages: Developmental milestones for preschoolers
Why you shouldn’t get hung up on meeting milestones

 

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