Any correlation between infant talents and adult skills?

Most babies – my one-year-old included – are more “advanced” in some areas than in others. For instance, my Charlie is extremely verbal and communicative. However, he’s on the slow end of most of the gross motor skills. He just started crawling (after a couple months of scooting on his stomach), and he’s nowhere near walking.

Is there any research on whether these differences during infancy and toddlerhood are predictors of the person’s strengths and weaknesses as an adult?

Are my dreams of being a father who applies unbelievable, traumatic pressure on my quarterback son misplaced? Should I resign myself to the possibility that – like both his parents – he may end up a … gasp … LAWYER?

I don’t have any concerns about his development – I have heard enough stories like “my brother didn’t walk until he was 18 months old and now he’s fine.” I’m not worried about “fine” (or anything else). Just curious about whether it is possible to predict something more.

(In the absence of research, I loves me some anecdotes.)

Well, anecdotally my son was a very early talker. He put together complex sentences – consisting of 6+ words or so and phrased perfectly – at 14 months old. Stuff like “Please, can I have a drink of water?”

He is now 8 and is very much in the top percentile of his class academically (actually he may be THE top of his class), but alas, he has two left feet and is very much an outlier in physical coordination. He is however extremely adept at video games. :wink: And believe me we’ve had him enrolled in Tae Kwon Do, Soccer, skating and Hockey. He’s a klutz! Then again so was I until about 12 to 14 years old and suddenly I found some new coordination skills that were absent previously, then went on to play top level softball.

In other words… Ahhh… what was the question again?

I was reportedly an early talker and a late walker. I’m still very good at verbal/intellectual activities, and I can’t dance and suck at sports.

Obviously this tells you . . . absolutely nothing.

But it is a cool anecdote. And I heard you loves you some of those.

If you are asking whether it is possible to train a toddler to be world class - I think yes Mozart, Tiger Woods, and Martina Navatalova spring to mind. Whether you need exceptional genes as well as pushy parents I dont know. However, childhood training in anything will make it easier in adulthood for mastery and world domination

My son was very physical as a baby and toddler and has grown up to be the kid who can play any sport. He was slow to speak and didn’t talk much as a toddler- but has also grown up to have hours-long conversations

Well, violinist Yehudi Menuhin started playing violin at age three and that turned out to be a pretty good indicater of future skill with the instrument. He was giving violin solos with the San Francisco Symphony at seven.

There is the, probably apocryphal, story of pianist Artur Rubenstein and violinist Fritz Kreisler going to a recital at Carnegie Hall by a child violinist, maybe Menuhin.

As they sat listrening the extraordinary performance by the small figure on stage Kreisler leaned over to Rubenstein and said, “Awfully warm in here.”

To which Rubenstein responded, “Not for piano players.”

My tongue-in-cheek comment about my desire to be an overbearing parent notwithstanding, I really don’t have any desire or intention to try to turn my child into a prodigy, athletic or otherwise. And, as others have noted, prodigies can make themselves known as early as age three.

I’m really asking about even earlier stages – will a “physical” baby likely be a “physical” (or athletic) adult? Will a verbal but non-physical baby likely be a verbal but non-athletic adult?

The anecdotes recounted thus far suggest that, yes, there is a correlation.

But I’d hate to give up on my quarterback/second baseman/serve-and-volleyer/power forward fantasies so quickly. I’m still waiting for someone to say “Michael Jordan didn’t walk until he was three! And he could only walk backwards until he was eight!”

You’ll hear a lot of anecdotes that bear it out, but every child development class and text, as well as every parenting book I’ve ever read, say that no, there isn’t. There are certain areas of the brain which develop sooner, and that’s when the kid is going to demonstrate those skills, but as they continue to grow, others catch up and may surpass the early skills.

The toddler divide of skills is very largely, although not exclusively, gender based - boys tend to be better movers and girls tend to be better talkers. But this is a gross generalization, and means nothing at all for your particular kid. It also means nothing by the time they’re entering school.

Here’s another anecdote for you. According to my parents, I walked, climbed, ran, jumped very early, but wasn’t much of a talker until I was around two. Today I’m working on my Ph.D. in the social sciences and am fairly hopeless in most sports. I’d guess that both of my kids (boy age 5 and girl age 1) are working on the same trajectory, although hopefully they’ll do better with sports than I do.

Anecdote again, but relevant nonetheless:

When I was a wee tot, my parents bought me a toy plastic saxophone for Xmas - apparently, it had keys and a buzzing mouthpiece and could play a simple scale. I blew a few random odd notes into it, then put it aside and didn’t touch it again until later on Xmas day, when my grandfather called round.

He asked me what presents I’d got, and one of them was this sax toy sitting in the corner. Could I play it, he asked. Yes, I replied. Go on, then, he said, jokingly, play us a carol.

So I played Good King Wenceslas, note-perfectly, without even having to think about it. It turned out I could play any tune I’d heard.

Of course, my parents (and grandparents) thought they had a child prodigy on their hands, so I was never short of encouragement in later years, and ended up taking trumpet lessons seriously at the age of nine, learning to play pretty well, then switched to piano/keyboards.

No, I’m not a musical genius. I’m a reasonably talented musician, and could possibly have been a professional jazz pianist (according to pro musos I’ve since worked with on an amateur/semi-pro basis), but not to the extent that the toy-sax episode had suggested to my parents. And I doubt very much whether I’d have been much good as, say, a classical pianist.

It’s not as if I didn’t practice or didn’t have lessons - my teenage years were spent obsessively devoted to playing music whenever possible, in bands, orchestras, at home or anywhere I could play.

If there’s a moral in that one anecdote, it’s that early skills may suggest later skills, but it’s not a linear correlation.

Two anecdotes here – same child, but different conclusions.

  1. As an infant, my son was on the late end of average for the majority of physical skills, such as sitting up and walking. He was markedly early in his development of verbal skills. Today, at 9 … he is: A klutz with fantastic verbal skills!

  2. As a pre-schooler, my son had terrible social problems, to the extent that professionals were suggesting he might have Asberger’s Syndrome. He hated being around other children. Today, at 9 … he is: a kid with a healthy number of friends, much in demand as a playdate.

Go figure.

As long as we’re on the subject of infant skills, may I ask a question?
Why, why, oh why… do we insist that one of the first skills we teach infants is to recognize farm animals?
The cow goes moo, the horse goes neigh, the duck goes quack… ad nauseam

Is this something so critical in life that it has to be the earliest skill a child learns?

A modern baby has zero encounters with cows.
What a modern baby does encounter, are things that ring and beep, not things that go moo.
So why not start teaching important life skills early?
Ya know… instead of pictures of cows and lions, how about a baby book with pictures of faxes and ipods?

Then, 20 years later, instead of “baby’s first words” we can use “baby’s computer skills” to discuss the old nurture-vs-nature debate.
“My infant could use a Comfy keyboard earlier than average, and he grew up to be an engineer.”…etc,etc

I’m sure you are already aware of this, but I’d like to point out anyway that the problem with anecdotes is that they are not controlled scientific studies, and therefore meaningless as data.

I don’t want to pull out the hackneyed “plural of anecdote” thing, but, regarding human development, it’s 100% true. All the time. No matter how many anecdotes you have.

We can’t solve nature vs. nurture because a controlled scientific study would require no outside influences on the children, which is impossible, or at least unethical.

Those who have infants with above average verbal or physical skills are likely to encourage those skills, confounding any attempts at correlation.

It’s not at all surprising that kid A who can put together sentences at 14 months goes on to be an author as an adult. He was probably encouraged all his life by his parents to master language skills, because he was good at it early on. Kid B, who happened to learn to jump at 9 months, might go on to be a world-class basketball star because his Dad thought “hey, this kid’s going to be good at basketball” and played basketball with him every day.

And it doesn’t even have to be that intentional. I would guess that simply being aware of your child’s strengths and weaknesses is probably enough to result in subconscious behaviour that could influence future development.

Did we have faxes and ipods 25 years ago? No.
Will we have faxes and ipods 25 years from now? Probably not.

Did we have cows 25 years ago? Yes.
Will we still have cows 25 years from now? Probably yes.

I get where you’re coming from and agree maybe farm animal noises are kind of a useless skill. Maybe they should stick to dogs go woff, cars go beep, birds go chirp, etc.

AND why are they used on standardized tests for toddlers’ developmental delays? I swear to Og, the only reason the state is still paying for my daughter’s speech therapist visits is because she doesn’t know what a cow says. We all (her myriad therapists and I) laughed about it at her last domain meeting. Of course, I don’t mind taking their money, but at this point she’s a pretty “normal” kid who is simply scoring low on stupidly designed tests.

I have read recently that toddlers who begin walking early are slower to develop their hand and arm skills like using utensils, manipulating objects, pushing/pulling doors/drawers. (Which makes sense since crawlers are constantly using their arms and hands to maneuver. Once they walk their arms and hands don’t get as much of a workout.)
However, no long term effects can be noticed. That is by age 3 they are all back to even again.

Supposedly, my first word was “pretty” and I grew up to be an artist. That’s all I’ve got.

  1. Those sounds that any child (and his parents) can emulate.
  2. Farming is still an essential part of society.
  3. Kids love animals.
  4. Taking your kid to the county fair is a wonderful, cheap annual outing.