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Nurturing a Bright Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My daughter is 22 months old.

  • She has an extensive vocabulary, in fact she probably knows and understands every word she has heard.

  • She easily strings together sentences of 5-7 words

  • She counts to 14

  • She recites her ABC's

  • She has learned (by heart) 15 nursery rhymes

  • She knows all the different shapes (including the difference between oval and circle / square and rectangle, etc)

  • She recognizes 4 colors immediately but plays around with the rest (for now)

  • She can replace a 36 piece wooden shape puzzle in less than 5 minutes

  • She recognizes numbers and letters

  • She loves books. she prefers reading and puzzles to any other toy offered

  • She has a fantastic imagination

  • Her attention span is quite good

  • She could watch an entire movie (lion king, toy story, etc) without interruption.

  • She has her own favorite DVD's and tells me which ones she wants to watch and when (this happened since about 10 months)

  • She is a perfectionist, very neat and tidy. she hates being dirty and always insists on cleaning herself if she messes

  • She also has a tendency to pack things in neat rows, then upack them and pack them again (sometimes it drives me nuts).

  • She does not always just accept what you tell her. If in her mind she thinks a color is purple and you say it's pink she will argue with you because she believes she is right.

  • She asks so many questions. always why, when, where

  • Her sentences are in perfect grammatical order

  • She knows the names (and the sounds they make) of countless animals

Earlier in her growing months:

  • Said her recognizable double sound words around 3 months

  • By 6 months she said words like: what, when, why, door, clean, etc

  • At a year her vocabulary was over 50 words

  • By 14 months she developed rapidly and had almost a full vocabulary.

I want to make sure that I provide my child with the best possible avenues to unlock her potential. It is possible that I am just a over-eager proud mother but if this is not the case I would like to know what I should be doing for her. If the fact that she stays with a nanny will be detrimental to her development? If I should rather put her in a creche or playgroup?

Please could you advise what is the best course of action for my child would be. Alternatively if you think that the abilities/milestones I have mentioned are of a "clever" baby and not a gifted one or if you think she is just average then I will accept this and feel more comfortable knowing that I am not depriving her of any education or special care. Your response is appreciated.

A: Whether a child is gifted or not, it shouldn't make much difference in providing educational enrichment; except that for a gifted child, perhaps more challenging activities that stimulate them may help foster development. Children, in general, would need that extra help and guidance in meeting their educational needs to maximize their learning and development. For example, a toddler (regardless of whether s/he is gifted) who is able to solve a shape puzzle should be given puzzles with higher levels of difficulty or challenged to solve similar puzzles in lesser time. Children who are challenged adequately in general would develop better.

Your little girl appears to be developing faster than the average child, but at this stage, rather than to label children, it is best to observe their development and cater for their needs as you help them explore learning. The fact that she enjoys puzzles, numbers, letters and books are quite common traits of early advancement and these should be nurtured further.

It is not clear whether you are teaching here but for bright toddler perhaps you can provide her with materials that allow her to learn and use her mind freely. Free play is crucial for such children to help develop and stimulate learning. Parents can act as facilitators to guide and provide the relevant educational exposures. Since she has a fantastic imagination, you may want to work on that. For example, instead of reading her a story everyday, try reading half-way and get her to complete the story with her imagination. Adults can be surprised at the vividness of children's imagination when stimulated.

Gifted children need to be intellectually challenged and stimulated so as not to get bored. If you find that your child is restless most times, it may be that she needs a change in the educational materials you are providing her. Apart from home based learning, take her out to explore nature and allow her to ask many questions on nature. Prior to that, perhaps you could read her something on nature; application of knowledge is essential in learning. Having said that, at this stage, try not to plan her learning rigidly and allow for a lot of free play and exploration activities with minimal interference.

As for home care, it is always best that parents spend quality time with their children to create that bond. However, this may not always be possible. If you have a good nanny who is able to structure learning activities (with your help), this should be fine. If you are unsure, it is best to send your child to a play school a few times a week, not only for that extra stimulation, but also for a change in environment and an opportunity to socialize with other kids. Good luck!


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