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Why does each child develop at their own pace?

surprised baby

Key points:

  1. Early childhood development (ECD) doesn’t follow a predictable, linear path, and is influenced by a child’s environment, culture, and relationships.
  2. Language development is a complex process that develops in bursts rather than constant growth.
  3. New models and frameworks are needed to more accurately reflect leading ECD research and provide practical tools for parents.
  4. The Kinedu Skills Model was developed in collaboration with ECD experts to provide parents intuitive ways to understand their child’s unique developmental patterns based on scientific research.

We’re pulling back the curtain and giving you a glimpse into the ever-evolving science of early childhood development (ECD).

Initial assumptions about ECD stemmed from adult developmental theory, in particular Erik Erickson’s theory of psychosocial stages, which suggested that development followed a singular, linear path divided into clear-cut stages. Erickson maintained that growth happened in predictable “baby steps,” if you will.

We now know from more than 40 years of research that children don’t grow in concise, predetermined ways, however. If we have two kids, one might learn to walk before the other does, for example. Skills and milestones are interconnected and ECD can’t be reduced to the sum of its parts. As children age, they are influenced by culture, relationships, and the environment and adapt accordingly. Babies develop at their own pace and sometimes in ways that make us as parents scratch our heads.


A nonlinear approach to development provides a more optimal understanding of how progress occurs. Take, for example, language development, which is interconnected with a child’s physical, cognitive, and social growth. Speaking requires the functioning of facial muscles, sensorimotor integration, attention, memory, imitation, and the conceptualization of meaning. Because it is such a complex process, language develops in bursts rather than via constant growth. It may seem like your child has mastered 10 new words overnight, but it’s a product of month’s worth of tiny changes that seem to suddenly “click” at random.

Although previous frameworks have given us tangible ways of measuring outcomes, at kinedu we believe that we need better models for the future. Models that more accurately reflect leading ECD research. This is why we developed our Kinedu Skills Model in coordination with ECD experts: to help parents understand children’s unique developmental patterns in an intuitive way that’s true to the science.

If you are interested in learning more about this, read Stanford Professor Michael Frank PhD’s blog article on the need for new ECD assessments and frameworks: Babies Learning Language

María Mirón is a psychology researcher with a Masters in Clinical Psychology. With over eight years of research experience, she has published and presented extensively on Early Childhood Development forums across the globe and is currently a professor of research methods at the University of Monterrey. She is on a mission to bridge the gap between the science of ECD and practical tools for parents.

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