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Milestone Moments critical for child's success

Milestone Moments critical for child's success

When Terri Gwizdala talks about a child’s Milestone Moments, she’s not referring to cute videos posted on Facebook or birthday party pictures captured on your cell phone.

She’s referring to developmental benchmarks most children reach by certain ages, whether it’s cooing at 2 months or starting to run at 2 years. 

Gwizdala is the coordinator for the Washington County Early Childhood Advisory Council based in Hagerstown. Working with some community partners, the council is distributing the Milestone Moments booklet that charts out those benchmarks. Information for the booklet was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The booklets are available in English and Spanish.

“What it’s intended to do is act as a prompt ... a starting point for discussion about a child’s, not just the physical development, but the cognitive, social and emotional development that happens between birth and age 5,” Gwizdala said.

“It’s a resource for parents or really any caregiver who works with children in that age range.”

Dr. Emeka Obidi of Partners in Pediatrics and Family Medicine in Hagerstown said it’s a valuable resource.

“When there’s some important medical issue or developmental issue, it will show up very often in not making the milestones. ... Sometimes parents don’t know that something is off,” Obidi said.

The doctor said one of his favorite parts of the booklet are sections that tell parents “what they can do to encourage development through the milestones.”

Gwizdala said research continues to show the importance of the earliest years to a person’s development. For example, she said, 90 percent of brain development takes place before age 5.

“A lot of it has to do with social/emotional (skills), or you may hear it referred to as executive functioning skills. It’s an approach to learning, it’s an approach to problem solving, how you make friends, how you deal with confrontation or adversity ... if an infant can calm himself. That’s part of the whole development.”

The booklet lists benchmarks by categories: social/emotional, language/communication, movement/physical development and cognitive (learning, thinking and problem-solving).

“It’s recognizing that there’s a whole child that needs to be developed,” Gwizdala said.

For example, at 2 months, a typical child will begin to smile at people (social/emotional), will coo and make other sounds (language/communication), can hold up her head and begin to push up when she’s on her tummy (movement/physical development) and will pay attention to faces (cognitive).

At 1 year, that child can typically pay simple games like “peek-a-boo” (social/emotional), can say simple words like “mama” or “dada” (language/communication), can get to a sitting position without help (movement/physical development) and will explore items in different ways, such as shaking, banging or throwing them (cognitive).

The booklet stresses the youngest ages, with benchmarks at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, 18 months, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years and 5 years.

Along the way, the book lists possible areas of concern. For example, for 4-month-olds, it encourages a parent to “act early by talking to your child’s doctor” if she does not watch things as they move, doesn’t smile at people or can’t hold her head steady.

The booklet is one of several efforts under way to improve what Gwizdala calls “life preparedness” for Washington County youth. The need is borne out in many ways, she said, citing school preparedness as an example.

“The school readiness scores in Washington County are not where we need them to be,” she said. “Only about one in three children enter school identified as having the skills they need to succeed in school.”

Several organizations and agencies are cooperating in that broader effort, she said. For example, the council holds a seat on the OnTrack board of directors. OnTrack seeks to prepare people “to thrive in a 21st-century workforce, producing self-reliant and engaged individuals who strengthen our local economy and community.”

Get your copy

English and Spanish versions of Milestone Moments booklets are available at doctors' offices and some other medical facilities.

The booklet also is available on the Early Childhood Advisory Council's website

At this age

Some highlights from Milestone Moments, listing some benchmarks children usually reach by certain ages:

At 2 months

• Can briefly calm himself (may bring hands to mouth and suck on hand)

• Coos, makes gurgling sounds

• Pays attention to faces

At 6 months

• Likes to play with others especially parents

• Responds to his own name

• Begins to sit without support

At 1 year

• Puts out an arm or leg to help with dressing

• Uses simple gestures, like shaking head "no" or waving "bye-bye"

• Pulls up to stand, walks by holding on to furniture

At 2 years

• Shows defiant behavior (doing what he has been told not to do)

• Says sentences with two to four words

• Begins to sort shapes and colors

At 3 years

• Understands the idea of "mine" and "his" or "hers"

• Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time

• Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people

At 4 years

• Cooperates with other children

• Tells stories

• Understands the idea of counting

At 5 years

• Can tell what's real and what's make-believe

• Uses future tense; for example, "Grandma will be here"

• Can print some letters or numbers

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