Saturday, July 13, 2024

What Are Inchstones? How Parents Are Celebrating Small Wins

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For parents keeping an eye on their child’s growth and development, the milestones matter. Doctors track when babies roll over or take their first steps to monitor growth, teachers track when children can use scissors or read as checkpoints for their learning, and parents celebrate all the big moments along the way. But more parents are now celebrating “inchstones” instead.

According to an annual Pinterest report, inchstones are a rising parenting trend in 2024, and although the concept isn’t new, this year, the platform has seen a surge of interest from parents searching for ideas to celebrate “tiny triumphs.” But what are inchstones, and are they a better metric to track a child’s growth and development? Here’s what experts say.

Experts Featured in This Article

Katari Coleman is a project director for the National Center Afterschool and Summer Enrichment at the Education Development Center nonprofit, or EDC.

Taylor Day, PhD, is a licensed psychologist specializing in neurodivergent-affirming care for children with autism and their families.

What Are Inchstones?

Inchstones are a more granular look at how we track and celebrate growth by focusing on “small steps in development rather than big jumps,” says Katari Coleman, a project director at the nonprofit Education Development Center.

For example, one milestone may be when a child learns how to hold their own cup or bottle, typically between 6 and 8 months old. Parents and doctors look out for this developmental milestone because it marks when most babies have the strength and fine motor skills necessary to hold things with their hands and fingers. But Coleman points out that parents may see the inchstones preceding when the child starts handling the cup “with intentionality,” an essential first step that “will lead to the milestone.”

Another example: while being fully potty trained is a considerable milestone, an inchstone might occur when a toddler begins to use the potty during the day, while still using diapers at night.

Benefits of Tracking Inchstones

Psychologist Taylor Day, PhD, tells PS that recognizing inchstones can be “especially important for neurodivergent kids.”

Dr. Day explains that tracking progress “in terms of miles can feel overwhelming, unattainable, and can become discouraging” for kids who may not “naturally acquire some of the baseline skills in the same way as their neurotypical peers.” And, when parents are too fixated on larger milestones, they can “lose perspective on the small but important developmental steps” that come before.

“Inchstones allow parents to shift their mindset from worrying about meeting neurotypical standards to celebrating their child’s progress relative to their own baseline,” she adds. This granular focus shift isn’t only for families with neurodivergent or disabled children, however. It’s an excellent way for all parents and caregivers to view growth and progress.

“Inchstones, above all else, are an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the little wins,” Dr. Day says. “By focusing our attention on the present, we are able to really meet the child where they are at and support them with their present state of development, rather than occupy ourselves with the future.”

But Are Inchstones Just Another Excuse to Celebrate?

While milestones and inchstones are important metrics for parents and caregivers looking to monitor development and growth in their child, the rise of the term is also in part because parents are looking for reasons to celebrate.

Per Pinterest, the reason inchstones are considered a rising trend this year — despite not being a new concept — is because there’s been a sizable increase in search terms related to those smaller moments. For example, the terms “monthly milestone ideas” and “end-of-year school party ideas” saw a 90 percent increase in searches between September 2021 and August 2023, according to Pinterest’s data. “My first tooth party” is also up by 40 percent in searches, while “baby naming ceremony” is up 35 percent and “potty training rewards ideas” is up 100 percent.

More common examples of inchstone parties may include half-birthday celebrations, a good report card, or first period party. That said, when they become more common, these festivities may add more pressure on parents to celebrate everything. “Overemphasis on celebrating these moments with ‘over the top’ activities can take the grandness out of the accomplishment,” Coleman warns.

Recognizing an accomplishment doesn’t need to come in the form of an extravagant event, however. “Parents can simply make a day out of acknowledging the child’s accomplishment by praising them, telling family and friends, and/or giving the child a special privilege for the day,” Coleman suggests.

Ultimately, parents and care providers should look at milestones and inchstones “as a broad reference,” Dr. Day says, adding that noticing delays in meeting developmental inchstones and milestones can lead to faster intervention. “Understand that development (both in terms of inchstones and milestones) is not one linear line.”

Devan McGuinness (she/they) is a Canadian disabled writer, editor, and social strategist who covers politics, entertainment, parenting, and lifestyle. Devan has contributed to PS, Fatherly, Parents, Scary Mommy, Mom.com, and more over her 10-plus years in digital media, specializing in stories that matter most to families.



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