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May 13, 2022

Why The Sudden Spike in Late Bloomers?

Many babies these days are rolling, crawling, and walking later than what the checklists and books tell us. What is going on? Is there something in the water? Is there a secret we are missing? Is this another consequence of the COVID-19 era on babies?

Why does it seem like the measuring stick is moving backwards and it’s taking longer to check off those developmental milestones that we’re expecting to see a bit earlier. And why are some milestones all of a sudden “disappearing” from medical guidelines? Why are teachers reporting that more and more kids are starting school without the foundational skills needed to hold pencils, cut out shapes, and sit properly? Are babies and little kids THAT different from what they used to be? Are we raising a new generation of developmentally “behind” children? 

Some of you might be reading this and thinking, my child met all the milestones early! All my nieces and nephews met milestones early – you must be making this up or exaggerating just how many kids are developmentally behind.

While it is true that many babies and children are still following the typical progression of skills and starting of preschool with a BANG, it’s  many- but certainly not most. The range of normal has widened, the expectations have loosened, and instead of stopping to ask why or what should be changed, the medical community has been changing the standards to accommodate the shifts we are seeing.

So what has changed?

It started with the Back to Sleep campaign, launched in the mid 90s, which advocated for babies to sleep on their backs to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This very important change has decreased the number of SIDS deaths, which is incredible and a wonderful change because life is certainly the most important thing.

However, with all good things, there are some drawbacks. Because babies are now spending much more time on their backs (they do sleep a hell of alot!), they are not getting as much belly down time (tummy time) as they once were when the standard practice was to place babies on their tummies for sleep. How does this affect our babies, you ask?

  • Strength– Tummy down positioning helps build strong back and neck, shoulder, arm, and hand muscles. Babies now get a fraction of time to build up strength and endurance for these body parts, which could affect their progression towards milestones reliant on that strength.
  • Body Awareness– In prone (tummy down) position, babies have full contact with the surface below them, giving them lots of proprioceptive input to help them learn where their bodies are in space. When on his back, baby’s face, hands, arms, and toes are not getting that same input. In order to reach their milestones, babies need lots of proprioceptive input to help their brains learn where each body part is. This, again, is part of the foundational process needed to reach first year milestones and beyond.

 

Today, we are also seeing Baby Product Overuse– The baby item market is now filled with car seats that become strollers, strollers that become car seats, portable swings, stationary swings, bouncy seats that rotate baby, and all types of loungers. Babies are spending more time than ever in some sort of “container”, allowing for much less opportunity to stretch and move to learn new motor patterns and integrate primitive reflexes. 

 

Another big change with this generation is Screen Time. We get it-our kids watch tons of screens too (so do we-we run an Instagram account!), but it is affecting the skills they are building. Even educational apps don’t encourage manual dexterity, hand strengthening, and hand-eye coordination like Mancala, Othello, and Checkers. Sitting and coloring on a screen with a finger is not the same qualitatively as coloring with a crayon. Gross motor skills are certainly lacking as kids are spending a lot less time running, climbing, and swinging- avatars have taken over those jobs. The pull of screens gets us all, and our children’s development is suffering from the repercussions of it too. 

So now what? What are you supposed to do if your baby is not crawling by 10 months, or walking by 16 months? How do you help your child who is struggling with the gross and fine motor skills necessary to enter into the preschool years?

We got you! It’s never too late to work on missed or late skills. 

Babies/Toddlers: These kiddos need tons and tons of floor time because playing in ALL positions is necessary to develop the foundational strength, vestibular and proprioceptive systems needed for all future milestones. Babies need lots of tummy time, back play, and sidelying play to build up all their muscle groups. We go into more detail on this in our Babies on the Move course for great tips to reach each developmental milestones 0-12 months. 

 

Preschool/kindergarten: Make time to prioritize gross motor and fine motor play. Most of us can’t eliminate screens- and screens can be so good! But as we started this off, with all good does come another side that might be, well not so good. Try to set aside 10-15 minutes every other day designated for fine motor activities like color-by-numbers with broken crayons, board games, cutting shapes, and beading necklaces. The alternate days of the week, use this time slot for gross motor activities like yoga, playing tag, kicking or throwing balls, animal walking, and obstacle courses. It may just look like play, but these activities are serious workouts and will help build the strength and coordination needed for those important school-based skills. 

 

If you feel your baby or big kid is too far behind, please reach out to a local therapist. Your child may need a little extra boost to get moving on an age-appropriate level and there is so much help to get them (and you!) there! 



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5 Things Your Baby Wants You to Know About Their Development

If you’re like most parents, your baby’s first-year milestones feel sort of mysterious. You may know the big ones they need to hit… but knowing how to make them happen is a whole different story.

Download this free guide to learn five surprising things about your little one’s development. (You’re going to loooooooove #4!)

Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Trusted by 100K parents and counting.

 

@totsontarget

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