Every child’s journey to mobility is unique, and there is no fixed timetable for reaching the milestones along the way. Dr Ong Eng Keow, Paediatrician, International Child & Adolescent Clinic, walks us through this much-anticipated phase of development.
MANY PATHWAYS TO MOBILITY
After a child is able to roll over, he or she will gain mobility and move around from a stationary position. Eventually, the child will be able to stand and walk. However, no two children will experience the exact same journey to mobility.
Many parents are surprised to learn that not all children crawl on all fours before they stand and walk. Nonetheless, while crawling is not a mandatory milestone of development, about 80 percent of children will do it. Some bottom-shuffle while some crawl with their tummy on the floor – a peculiar form of locomotion known as commando crawling or creeping.
Interestingly, there are some patterns of mobility attached to the different early modes of locomotion. It has been noted that children who commando-crawl or bottom-shuffle tend to walk later than the crawlers. Some of these children may not be walking at 18 months but are developing normally in all other areas. In almost all of these cases, there is no cause for concern.
MILESTONES THAT MATTER
While a child should turn over by six months and sit firmly by nine months, the age at which creeping, crawling and shuffling commences is highly variable. In general, a child should start standing by the age of one year, start cruising by 15 months and be walking by 18 months.
It is a good idea to regularly check with your doctor to ensure that your child is developing appropriately for their age – especially weight, height and head size. You should also check on the four fields of developmental skills – gross motor, vision and fine motor, hearing, speech and language, social, emotional and behavioural.
Most children should follow the normal developmental timeline. However, for babies who are born prematurely, development can be substantially delayed yet with a normal outcome. Development in children with genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome will definitely follow a different schedule. Young children who have had a severe illness like meningitis may also have delayed milestones.
Depending on the cause of the delay and the type of skill that has been delayed, different interventions will be needed to help different children catch up. Some may need physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and so on. In the majority of cases, there are no serious problems and parents simply need to be patient while their child develops at their own pace. However, when in doubt, you should always raise your concerns with your doctor.
HAZARDS OF HOME
Mobility ushers in a multitude of risks around the home, ranging from cot accidents from hanging mobiles to drowning in pails of water to falling off stairs to ingesting detergents. Vigilance is required at all times – and some very cautious types even suggest crawling on the floor on all fours in search of small overlooked objects that can pose as choking hazards.
With the arrival of mobility, sleeping arrangements need to change. Your newly mobile child should be put in a cot with raised sides to prevent them from falling out. Never assume that surrounding them with pillows or bolsters offers adequate protection from falls.
Also, never place bumper pads on the sides of the cot or put heavy pillows in the cot, as they can smother or entangle the child.
HELP, MY CHILD IS OVER-ACTIVE!
Many parents ask me if there is such a thing as a ‘too active’ child. While most children are lively, some are more so than others simply because they are immature. A common concern among parents is that their child is ‘hyperactive’. However, more often than not, their child is cheeky or boisterous, not hyperactive.
In short, keep a watchful eye on your developing child and share in their joy as they revel in the power and freedom of their newfound mobility. And be resigned to the fact that while they are finding their feet, you will be running off yours.
Article contributed by Dr Ong Eng Keow, an accredited doctor of Mount Alvernia Hospital.