A curious approach to milestones

Life is not a matter of milestones but of moments. ~ Rose Kennedy


Nothing like a snappy quote to inspire — especially when penned by a mother of nine who happens to be the late matriarch of the Kennedy family.

My street cred is comparatively ‘subtle.' I’ve written more than 80,000 words on motor development, but if my PhD thesis was an instagram account I’d have 4 followers (one of these is me).

I do agree with Countess Kennedy that the little moments in life are the most precious. The ones where you feel something. The connections you make with your loved ones and the memories you hold.

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But I want to unpack the ’not a matter of milestones’ bit from my baby.physio perspective. I’m talking about motor milestones like rolling, sitting, crawling and walking.

I see milestones as little signposts on the side of the road. When we don’t know where we are going they have greater importance. Nearly everyone remembers how old their first baby was when they first sat, crawled or walked. These are signs that let us know our baby is on the right path, and that if we stay on the road together, we’ll usually get to our destination without much fuss.

If we’ve made the journey before we pay less attention to the signs (hello second child phenomenon). We take a glance here and there, but trust that our baby will naturally find the path of least resistance with their movement, and 'get there' at whatever speed they choose.

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Until they don’t.

You see, some babies bypass some signs. Or they choose a different road to travel on. And mostly that is fine. But how do you know when it’s fine and when to get help?

If your baby is doing something differently, something asymmetrically, or something slower than other babies — be curious. Do you know why they chose that way? Is there anything else about how they are moving that is worrying you? Is there something they need to practice that has been missing?


I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. ~ Albert Einstein


If you don’t know, ask someone that has expertise in baby development (and I don’t mean your friendly neighbour) to help you. Be empowered to get curious early. The way your baby is moving doesn’t need to be 'wrong' to explore this path. After all, your baby has worked out the best way to move under the circumstances available.

This is a time sensitive approach that flies in the face of a wait-and-see attitude to development. And I advocate that because once a baby makes an alternate turn and goes a long way down that road, it is infinitely more frustrating and time poor to double back, for them and for you.

There are so many things about your baby, their environment, and the task at hand that can influence how they choose to move. There may be extra support or strategies available that help your baby explore other ways of moving, of being active explorers — so you can go back to enjoying the moment.

For life’s sake.


Physiotherapists’ are movement experts. Dr Suzanne Long offers motor skill check-ups for concerned parents at the baby.physio clinic.