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Activities for the Gifted Child

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I read with interest, the characteristics of a gifted child you have listed for the 0-2 age group. My daughter is currently 25 months old. At the age of 5 weeks old, she cried incessantly when she was left with my mum while I was away for an appointment. The crying stopped only when I appeared in her line of vision (but not carrying her). Is this the ability to recognize the primary caregiver?

According to her preschool teacher after attending school for 2 weeks, she has a superb memory. In fact she knows the names of all 36 children in her school & for those children on the school bus, she is also able to tell her teacher where they stay and where the bus driver should turn.

Using the version of the development checklists from the abridged DDST, Singapore, she has exceeded that required of a 24 months old when she was only 16 months old. In fact, she is able to hit the milestones for the age group of 2-4 years old since she was 20 months old. Currently, she has already achieved some of the milestones listed for the 4-6 years old age group. She is able to identify colors of objects, draw a closed circle and square, dress herself, count from 1-15, etc.

Is she considered a gifted child? If yes, what type of activities should I involve her in?

A: You daughter surely appears ahead of toddlers of her age group, and chances are that she may be gifted. Whether a child is identified as gifted or average, the activities are pretty similar, just that the speed of performing activities may differ; hence the jump to more difficult activities would be faster. You can involve her in any activity, with the following practical guidelines in understanding your child at the back of your mind.

Gifted children have two main needs; feeling comfortable with themselves and their differences with other children and developing their potential to the maximum. As parents, it is important to keep in mind that whatever activity they indulge in should not be forced upon and not necessarily intended for parents to make long term goals for children (e.g., pushing a child to master a game/sport/music to compete for fame). Whatever activity your child may indulge in, the long term goal should be to help enable the child to be a comfortable adult who is able to use her/his gifts productively.

Observe what she enjoys. For a toddler, before going to formal school, you may want to follow your child's differences (compared to her age group) and meet her needs as you observe her. This would allow her to be different and treated as normal. For e.g., if at 2, she prefers to play with toys designed for a 5 year old, then let it be. If it appears that she enjoys reading, introduce books to her, and ones of her choice. If you find that she has a large and sophisticated vocabulary, enhance it by using such vocabulary yourself.

To develop closeness, you can also constantly talk, read or sing to your child. Talk to her about daily events. Ask her about school, perhaps repeating some activities she did at school or re-enacting scenes. Children love this kind of play, especially when adults join in. Read her stories in a way that encourages her to participate by answering questions, pointing to what she sees in a book or by repeating certain rhymes.

Don't forget to encourage exploration and play (provided it is safe). Children learn best through playing. For e.g., blocks, art and pretend play help children develop curiosity, problem-solving skills, language, and mathematics.

Make sure you keep in track of the progress she is making at school. This will enable you to gauge her performance, or any drop in her learning. If you feel that her school is not up to the mark, you may want to speak to her teachers and work together for the best possible results. Above all, regardless of the activity, as a parent you need to be warm, caring and responsive as much as possible. It has been researched and found that children, regardless of gifted or average, with caregiving such as touching, talking in a warm tone and smiling, get along better with other children and perform better in school than children who are less securely attached.


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