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What They Are and How They Should be Celebrated

With Our Children




All of us are aware of what milestones are. They are the big things we accomplish in life. For children, an example of a milestone is their first step. For adults, an example of a milestone is a fiftieth birthday. Inchstones, however, are smaller accomplishments, mostly centered around children, like losing a tooth or getting a first haircut.

The term was originally used by parents of special needs children because milestones can take much longer to achieve and are a tremendous amount of work. Celebrating the small steps, or inchstones, leading up to the milestone let parents express the joy these achievements brought them, according to What Are Inchstones? All about This Parenting Trend, by Caroline Bologna in the HuffPost.

Recently, however, celebrating inchstones with quite a bit of fanfare has been adopted by more and more parents. According to Pinterest, celebrating inchstones is one of the growing trends of 2024. Its search data shows “a 40 percent increase in searches for ‘my first tooth party,’ as well as 90% rises for ‘end of year school party ideas’ and ‘monthly milestone ideas’ between September 2021 and August 2023.”

Child development is magical. Watching children learn the value of sharing, become independent, develop their personalities, discover their personal skills and interests, and change from babies to toddlers and beyond is an extraordinary thing to witness. The inchstones along the way, like losing the first baby tooth, sharing a beloved toy for the first time, or saying “thank you” for the first time, though small in the scheme of things, warrant celebrating. Taking the time to take time out from our busy schedules to do so is important. 

What happens though if the celebration takes the form of a party each time one of these things happens? Eventually, the inchstone and the celebration lose most of their meaning. Rather than break out the cake, ice-cream, and themed balloons, it seems more meaningful to take a few minutes to talk to the child about their accomplishment and what it means. Also, by doing the latter, the child doesn’t expect the instant gratification a party brings every time it grows an inch or gets a haircut.


Another downside of having a big celebration for something that happens naturally without the child having to put any effort into it is that it may confuse the child leaving them wondering what all the excitement is about and expecting something bigger and better next time. Taking a child out for a special treat after they have achieved a new level in swimming or tai kwon do is much more meaningful to them because they understand their hard work is being rewarded. Telling them how proud you are of them is invaluable to a child and increases their self-confidence. It also motivates them to do more of the same. Celebrating the inchstones a child has worked toward is a healthy and necessary practice.

Inchstones lay the foundation for larger accomplishments in the future and signal the progress a child is making as they grow. They are worthy of wonder and of taking the time to celebrate in a meaningful way with a child. Overdoing the celebration, however, can confuse the child and not take their feelings into account. An important question to ask yourself is, “Who am I doing this for?” If it’s not for the child, then it probably isn’t necessary.

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