Kids and Developmental Milestones: What’s the Connection?

Everyday Einstein talks with Nicholas Day, author of Baby Meets World, about the surprising truth behind developmental milestones in babies. (Hint: They don’t matter as much as you think!)

Lee Falin, PhD,
May 10, 2013
Episode #053

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Even if screening can’t be improved, the language for talking about screening certainly can be. At the very least, the word “normal” should be scratched from the developmental vocabulary: what’s typical in infancy is variation. Rather than a long list of milestones, parents would sleep better with fewer but more relevant guidelines. We’d all do better to acknowledge just how unstructured infancy actually is. Later is just fine and earlier isn’t any better.

If your pediatrician, mother, brother, uncle, second cousin, dog walker, or cashier at the local grocery store gives you advice about your child’s milestones, here’s what you should keep in mind:

  1. Think twice before worrying. Most advice about milestones—when so-and-so should really be doing something—is not worth taking. Remember that deviation from the norm is actually normal. It’s not by itself the sign of a serious problem.

  2. When a milestone occurs doesn’t matter. There are no detailed, sophisticated, long-term studies that link early motor milestones with future achievement. There’s simply no scientific reason to think that earlier is better.

  3. Healthy babies screw around. By moving lots of different ways, infants adapt to the many different environments they will encounter. If your baby spends his time moving in the craziest, least efficient way imaginable, that’s actually adaptive. It’s a good thing.


Nicholas Day has been a wine salesman, a wedding cake baker, a fairground maintenance man, and a stay-at-home father. He writes about the care of children for Slate and the feeding of them for Food52. His writing has also appeared in Salon, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, and Time Out Chicago, among other publications. Check out his wonderful new book, Baby Meets World, and connect with him on Twitter @NicksDay.


Thanks to Nicholas Day for his insightful, panic-free advice. If you liked today’s episode, you can become a fan of Everyday Einstein on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, where I’m @QDTeinstein. If you have a question that you’d like to see on a future episode, send me an email at everydayeinstein@quickanddirtytips.com.

Toddler and Mother with Child images from Shutterstock


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