For pediatricians, these milestones serve as valuable indicators of typical or atypical development. When they fall outside the normal range, it can indicate underlying problems, offering an opportunity for early detection and intervention if necessary. According to Dr. Ana María Velasco Bolaños, pediatric specialist at Aster Royal Clinic, Downtown & Arabian Ranches, developmental milestones encompass the expected abilities, skills, and behaviors that children typically achieve at specific ages.
These milestones are usually divided into three main areas: physical, cognitive and emotional development. Monitoring them is vital to track progress, set realistic expectations, adapt support and activities and develop the child’s confidence and self-esteem. Dr. Velasco Bolaños says: “Some developmental delays may indicate special needs or disabilities. Meeting developmental milestones often lays the foundation for acquiring new skills.”
Dr Ignatius Edwin D’Souza, Consultant Pediatrician and Specialist Clinical Associate Professor at Thumbay University Hospital, highlights the importance of keeping a close eye on possible developmental delays in children. Physical delays, such as difficulties reaching motor milestones such as sitting up or crawling, may indicate underlying challenges. Cognitive impairments may manifest as a lack of curiosity, difficulty understanding and following instructions, or difficulty solving simple problems. Language delays may manifest as limited babbling, speech difficulties, or difficulties expressing ideas. Dr. D’Souza adds: “Social and emotional delays may be indicated by difficulties maintaining eye contact, participating in games, managing emotions, or exhibiting appropriate social behaviors. Paying attention to signs such as monotonous play and language delays is crucial for early detection.”
Caring for a baby is already a demanding task, and monitoring developmental milestones can be another challenge. Online forums, news stories, and well-meaning loved ones often add confusion with questionable information and advice. Dr. Velasco Bolaños helps dispel common myths about milestones and emphasizes the role of pediatricians in promoting better understanding.
Dr. Velasco Bolaños notes that parents often compare their children to others and that pediatricians can educate them about the normal range of development, emphasizing that children develop at different rates. Setting realistic expectations and providing reassurance are essential roles pediatricians play. Additionally, some parents may prioritize early academic skills, but health professionals emphasize the importance of a holistic approach to development, including physical, cognitive, social and emotional aspects. “They can provide resources and suggestions for activities that support holistic growth,” says Dr. Velasco Bolaños. “Parents may be hesitant to recognize potential delays due to fear or denial, and clinicians play a crucial role in early identification, offering open communication and resources for assessment and intervention.”
Dr. D’Souza suggests using engaging toys and activities that encourage discovery to improve a child’s developmental progress. Combined with outdoor activities, reading, and conversations that emphasize language development, this can significantly improve physical growth. Establishing consistent times for eating, playing, and sleeping helps maintain stability and encourage healthy growth. “Limiting screen time on mobile devices is crucial, as excessive use can impact social and language development,” says Dr. D’Souza. “Encouraging group play activities can promote social interaction and critical social skills. Finally, parents can increase their children’s motivation and confidence by offering praise and words of encouragement.”