Lyfeline Milestones – Understanding and Encouraging Child Development in the First Two Years
Parenting is one big guessing game of stress, research, opinions (both gentle and wildly abrasive, whether you want them or not), and amazement.
Our little ones grow and change at a rate that is hard to keep up with, and each day is full of difference.
Different sleep schedules.
Different tastes and appetites.
All of these changes are hard to keep up with. You just get used to something being a particular way when the white rabbit of parenting hops off and you have no idea what’s going on, and have to adjust yourself, your routine and your home with the changes.
It’s hard to do anything but hold on for dear life as you move with the ebb and flow of busy life with a newborn, then infant, then toddler. I remember thinking I would have so much time while she was a baby to read up on parenting and brush up on my knowledge of child development and suitable activities for little beings. Ha! It took me almost 6 months to read one, simple book. Most of my time comes in snippets here and there. Every so often I get the chance to read something that’s been posted or part of a piece in a parenting magazine. I’d love to have the time to dedicate to reading full books, but that’s just not going to happen for me right now. Well, not quickly, anyways.
That’s why the idea of an app that helps to share information on child development with parents, and allows caregivers to save and track milestones and more, was intriguing to me.
When I was presented with the opportunity to test out a new app on child development for caregivers of children aged 0-2, I was eager to give it a shot. I have to say, I was slightly skeptical as I’m not a big fan of the “You should be doing this” and the “You can’t do that” bits that people can push on you from their own opinions, without considering the big picture as it pertains to our individual lives and challenges. Let’s face it. There is only one “right” way to parent, and it doesn’t involve judging others.
But this is not at all the message I got while checking out the Lyfeline Milestones application. Instead, I was happily surprised to see how much non-judgemental and extremely useful information and reminders I got out of such short spurts of time spent on the app.
The main part of the child development app involves “cards” that are made available for you to read at your leisure, in any order you would like, that are relatable to the age and developmental stage of your individual child. You can set up different profiles for each of your children, if you have more than one, and each deck of cards is tailored to the individual. There is also a journal for you to add your own personal words and pictures of what is going on in your little one’s life (A new tooth? First steps? Some thoughts and feelings about being this little person’s Mommy?) that you can save and go back to whenever you’re feeling sentimental, or want to remember how long ago their incisors came in. You can also share everything with others who are involved in your child’s life, if you would like to, such as a doctor, daycare provider, Dad or Grandma. This usability is pretty neat, actually, to try and keep everyone on the same page.
There are a few other really exciting features that the developers are working hard on, which will be available in the future (for instance, the “Ask an Expert” option, where you can directly communicate with someone who is experienced and can offer insight to your questions and concerns). Having a conversation with one of the developers directly, I was impressed by how important this whole resource is to them, and how much effort they are putting in to making sure that each piece of the app is as easy, useful and beneficial to parents and caregivers as possible.
So, how do the cards work?
There are different categories of cards to work through: Gross motor, fine motor, self help, language, social, general, parenting, and physical. Basically, each card has a short bit of information for you to read, an activity to enjoy, or an assessment to complete. You get points for completing the cards, and will be given new cards that are, again, individualized for where you and your child are at that particular point of development.
The Lyfeline Milestones app has been set up somewhat like a game, in an attempt to make using the app more motivating and enjoyable, but in reality, it is actually a very helpful resource. I have been able to use this to understand my little one better from a developmental aspect, and have benefitted from using the information and ideas given to set up new experiences and more appropriately respond to the various situations that come up.
It’s amazing for me, coming from a background of Early Childhood Care and Education, exactly how much of my understanding has been forgotten about what is going on with these little brains and bodies. Even experienced caregivers can benefit from reminders and refreshers about what life is really like for a human who has only been around for a matter of months!
Now, I want to go back to the bit about assessments. One of the goals of the app is to help you keep an eye on how your child is development and how he or she compares to their peers. As someone who has a lot of experience working with parents and children going through assessments and simply worrying about “is my child normal”, assessments tend to make me a bit nervous.
Sometimes parents can get all caught up in whether or not their child is meeting milestones at the same rate as their peers, when each and every child is unique, and has a unique journey of development all their own. Some children start to walk at 9 months, and other won’t take a step until 18 months or older. Every child grows and develops in their own way, in their own time, when they are ready.
On the other hand, in all of this experience working with families, I have also seen parents and children really struggling to find the help they needed when they realized that their child did need some extra support in one area or another. There are not nearly enough special needs aides, the assessment can take quite a while, and the waiting list for funding tends to be very long, leaving children and parents struggling for longer, leaving these children waiting around to get the help they need to excel in school and life in general.
So, while I caution parents not too worry too much if Peter isn’t doing x as soon or a well as Tracy, it’s also very helpful to keep a watchful eye on things in case a child does need some support. The sooner you offer support to a child that needs it, the sooner they can carry on climbing that developmental ladder with less frustration and anxiety than the whole family may have been feeling before receiving that help.
I chatted with the developer and shared my concerns about assessments and causing worry. I wanted to make sure that there were no needless anxieties being pushed as parents if their little ones were not assessed as “normal”. My worries subsided as we chatted about what happens if a child were to rank below their peers in a particular assessment. After our conversation, I created a new child (say hello to my 19-month-old son, “Dude”) and completed the assessments and challenges (ie. activities) with answers that I knew would by atypical for his age.
The first assessment I did, I just hit “no” for every “Can he do this?” question, and was given a developmental score of 0 months. I’d obviously overachieved in creating an atypical child, as even the app sensed a mistake, and suggested a “reassessment was needed”. New questions were presented and this time I was more careful to complete the assessment in a more realistic way, with some yeses and some nos. This time Dude was assessed as having a social developmental age of 14 months (remember, Dude is 19 months, so some of his social skills and responses may not be quite at the level of the majority of children his age). This is what was displayed.
If you are the parent or caregiver of a child 0-2, and feel you could benefit from some informative and useful bits of information and ideas to use with your child, I recommend you try out the Lyfeline Milestones app. You can follow this link to get Lyfeline Milestones from the iTunes Store. As the app is still in “soft launch” status at the time that I am posting this, the developers have provided me with a code for my readers to use so you will be able to access all the fantastic tools within. Use code BTDL to access the app.
Good luck out there, Mamas and Papas! Your job is not an easy one, but it can sure be a lot of fun and the best learning experience of your life!
*Disclaimer* While I have been compensated to share my experience using the Lyfeline Milestones app, all of the above are my own words and reflect my true and honest opinions. You can read my full disclosure policy here.