Did you set goals in January? Are you working your way toward them or have they been forgotten? Every January, I set personal goals that venture somewhere between losing weight, eating healthier, spending more quality time with my family, and trying not to stress so much. Are you with me? Each year, I add one or two more to the list. One of my new additions this year is setting goals for my child. I know that this sounds crazy in this over-stimulated, over-scheduled world, but just hear me out.
As parents, our biggest jobs are not only to protect and nurture our children, but to also guide and direct them to develop skills so that they can lead productive lives. Setting goals for your child is a great way to make sure that you are doing all you can do to facilitate your child’s growth. These goals serve as a check and balance for you as well as for the child’s developmental growth. The most important element is that a child’s goals are never certain and always have to be flexible. Goals can be a great guide in assuring your child meets developmental milestones within a reasonable time as well as helps you understand if your child needs help along the way.
“The earlier a developmental delay is found and treated, the quicker children are able to catch up” says Physical Therapist and owner of Progressive Pediatric Therapy, Aimee Brueck.
Aimee says that the first goal should be set in infancy with the parent allowing daily “Tummy Time.” Considered as any time your baby is not laying on his or her back, Tummy Time is important for proper development of strength and motor skills. In the months following birth, babies learn through movement experimentation and environmental exploration. This is accomplished by freely moving and playing while on their tummies. The benefits of Tummy Time include strength and endurance in neck, shoulder, and back muscles necessary for age-appropriate gross motor milestones, such as rolling, sitting, and crawling; proper muscle tone development; and cognitive and social skills developed through environmental exploration through active head rotation and eye-level experiences. The possible side-effects of limited Tummy Time include potential head flattening which can lead to permanent asymmetries in facial features and skull shape or Torticollis which is an imbalance of the neck musculature causing delays in motor development.
Now that you have all the supporting information, what type of goals should you set for Tummy Time? Introduce your baby to Tummy Time slowly, starting with one or two minute intervals after every nap, diaper change, and feeding. Increase the duration slowly as your baby tolerates it. If your baby is not strong enough to support his or her head, then use a rolled-up towel, your leg, or your hands under the chest for support. You can also lay your baby on your chest while you are lying on your back or carry your baby in a “football” hold, one of my favorites. Remember that it is still vitally important that your baby sleeps on his or her back. Tummy Time is only for babies who are awake and supervised.
Whether you are setting physical, academic, or social goals for your child, it is important to work with your child’s doctor, teacher, and, if needed, pediatric therapist to develop accurate and obtainable goals. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting information from Progressive Pediatric’s therapists about specific age-related milestones for physical, speech, and occupational therapy.