Is your child gifted? Of course, all parents think their child is exceptional but giftedness goes beyond being smart or talented.
Giftedness is an inborn trait, marked by high intuition, curiosity, and an early ability to observe details and grasp abstract concepts. Gifted children often seem to have very unconventional ideas or approaches to problems. Their brains are wired a different way, and ironically they may not even do well in a traditional classroom set-up. They’re often labeled ‘difficult,’ ‘lazy’ or ‘weird,’ and sadly their incredible potential can be wasted because they didn’t get the right support or motivation.
However, with these early signs parents can encourage a gifted child from the very beginning. The signs can emerge as early as a few months after birth and become more apparent in the toddler years.
1. Gifted babies are unusually alert and interactive.
Gifted children are highly observant and curious—and these traits are apparent from birth. At just a few months old they can recognize their caregivers, and smile and interact with them very early on. They are also very alert and may stare intently at pictures or toys for unusually long periods of time.
2. Gifted babies have long attention spans.
They will sit and pay attention to a book as early as 6 months. They will turn pages and recognize images as early as 1 year old.
They may also start playing with shape sorters by 11 months, and figure out the ‘logic’ in matching the blocks to the holes.
They can also watch a TV program before their first birthday. Most babies will be attracted to the songs and images for a short while, but they can ‘follow’ the story and recognize it when it’s played again. They even show a preference for certain videos.
3. Gifted toddlers communicate early.
They often speak earlier than other babies and can form two-word phrases by 14 months. They have a wide vocabulary by 18 months (and can often say what they want, through a combination of words and gestures). If they can’t say it, they can at least understand it. They can follow simple instructions (like ‘put the book into the box’). By their second birthday, they can say three word sentences, and from that time on, tend to grasp proper grammar faster than their peers.
3. Gifted toddlers are more energetic.
They are not hyperactive but seem to have above-average energy levels. They may even need less naps (or take shorter naps) than other toddlers, but aren’t irritable or fussy from lack of sleep.
4. Gifted toddlers grasp concepts early.
By the time they are two years old, they can recognize letters or alphabets (or even their first word), numbers, and colors. Some may already count up to 10 or more. They may even show an interest in time.
By their third birthday, they will be able to read simple signs and even write their own letters, numbers and words. They can start one-to-one counting for small quantities, and may show exceptional skill at doing puzzles.
By their fourth birthday, they can read simple books and do addition and subtraction on their own.
5. Gifted toddlers like computers.
No, not computer games (everyone likes that). They may enjoy typing letters, researching (with the help of an adult) on topics that interest them (like ‘want see dinosaurs’). This is a sign of curiosity and one of the first indications of a long attention span, since they can sit through an activity that isn’t conventionally ‘entertaining’ for a young child. By their fourth birthday they can usually use a computer independently.
6. Gifted toddlers have a vivid imagination.
They can have imaginary friends, or be able to make their own bedtime stories. They often enjoy ‘pretend play’ more than other games. Their imagination also leads them to come up with unusual explanations or solutions to problems.
However, gifted children can also become very frustrated if other people misunderstand them or misinterpret their unique ‘approach’ to reality. They can grow to become sensitive, especially if the adults they were with did not show interest in what they said or ‘mocked’ their ideas. Without early encouragement, they can learn to hide their ideas or change them to conform to what is ‘expected’ of them.
7. Gifted toddlers have great memory.
They can retain facts and recall them much better than most kids. They usually tend to become obsessed with a topic and may amaze adults with the vast amounts of trivia their little brains can hold. For example, a gifted toddler or pre-schooler who likes dinosaurs will memorize their scientific names and be able to spell and distinguish an archaeopteryx from a pteranosaurus—something even most adults can’t do!
8. Gifted toddlers show an early sense of humor.
Humor actually requires logic and abstract reasoning. They may laugh at a joke or grasp the irony of a situation (like bursting into giggles when they see Daddy looking for glasses, when they’re actually on his head).
9. Gifted children ask a lot of questions.
Of course all kids are curious, but their questions seem to show remarkable insight and powers of observation. For example, at the supermarket, they may ask: ‘Why are some apples red and some are green?’ or if they notice someone thumping a fruit and you explain that it’s to check if it’s ripe, they’ll demand to know what ripe means, why ‘ripe’ makes that sound, and why other fruits (like bananas) don’t sound the same way. In other words, the flow of conversation indicates early logic.
Gifted children may also want to take things apart, and drive parents crazy because they like ‘breaking’ toys (when they’re actually performing their version of scientific experiments).