Based on our experiences in the field of Early Childhood Education, milestones are revered and discussed with great enthusiasm. However, we find milestones rather anti-climactic. Let us explain.
Young humans spend weeks and months focusing on transitional positions that strengthen their muscles. These transitional positions also provide ample opportunities for young humans to develop a sense of physical safety and self-reliance. They learn to get in and out of transitional positions while coping with falls and being stuck at times. They seem to endlessly repeat transitional positions, practice and refine their movements both large and small. Milestones are culmination of their work on transitional positions and thus anti-climactic for a sensitive observer of young humans.
One such revered milestone is when a young human starts to walk. We have heard several times a family member proudly announcing that their child could walk. Upon closer observation we see that the adult holding the hand or hands of the young human above his or her head while they took awkward steps forward unable to balance on their own or support their weight with their ankles. This is not walking. According to Pikler and Pap (2006) this is called taking "steps when led by an adult". Moreover, Pikler and Pap (2006) state that a child walks if "he makes progress to any direction by alternating his body weight from 1 foot to the other with each step and keeping his trunk approximately vertical. One of his feet is always touching the ground as he walks. Both feet are never away from the surface at the same time."
We do not walk with our hands above our heads. Why do we then expect young humans to walk with their hands above their heads? We have heard family members say that their child needs them to offer their hands. When adults offer their hands to hold on to, young humans expect and come to need adult hands. The adults created this unnecessary need. So, stop before you create such needs in young humans. It is also not safe for adults to bend awkwardly to hold the hands of young humans. Give your young humans space and time to grow and develop in their own timeline. Tell yourself that you can wait and do so.
To read more about freedom of movement please check out our blog post here.
Pikler, E. & Pap, K. (2006). Unfolding of infants' natural gross motor development. Los Angeles, CA: Resources for Infant Educarers.