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Development of a Bright Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I really appreciate your BrainyZine. Here's my question: My daughter (27.5 months) has an extensive vocabulary, memorizes everything (books, songs, alphabet, numbers, days of week, months, etc.) and can repeat 'canned' dialogues (e.g., the answers to what's your name, where do you live, how old are you, etc.), but she doesn't engage in 'conversation.' She will give a blank stare at a question like, 'What did you do today?' She repeats everything and her first instinct on hearing a 'new' question is to repeat the question...until she's been given the 'right' answer and then after that, she will answer with that 'right' phrase.

She does not really engage in pretend or imaginative play and I'm not sure if it's because we have not fostered it or modeled it for her. Is that a skill she would develop on her own? Is she too young for conversation? or even the early stages of conversation? I worry that she just repeats and doesn't initiate original conversation topics or recount things she did on her own. I have a feeling my husband and I have been poor role models, as we tended to repeat everything she said and then expand on it, and maybe she feels that is the way to 'talk.' Any advice would be much appreciated.

In certain ways, I feel she might be gifted. She started to talk at 14 months, could recite the alphabet and count to 40 and memorizes rhymes and stories by 16 months, recognize all the letters (upper and lower case), numbers, shapes, colors by 18 months. She understands concepts like quantity and basic addition (e.g., if she wants another ball and she has one, she'll ask for 2 balls, and then 3 balls, etc.). Because she excels in these areas, I worry about this other form of important communication and expressive language.

P.S. I bought the 'Your baby can read' DVDs that your previous newsletter recommended, and wow! She can 'read' over 50 words in just 2 months. And she loves those videos.

A: I really don't see a cause for concern here. Your daughter is perfectly normal in terms of her speech development and she will get into the conversational stages in due time. Children develop at different pace, so allow her natural development. From what you mentioned, you certainly have been a good role model in helping her expand on her talk. So, keep doing what you have been doing and she will be fine.

She has indicated signs of early giftedness and you would have to nurture her gifts to help her develop her potential to the maximum. If you have been helping her with her learning, keep up the good work. If she has developed the skills quite naturally, you may want to put in some effort to help her further, as a little help goes a long way rather than just leaving matters on their own. There is no need to worry about her communicative and expressive skills; they will all appear in time to come. Keep on getting her fun educational materials that enhances her learning. Most importantly, she must enjoy learning and not forced into something just because everyone else is doing it. If she does not engage in pretend play, so be it. Get her to do something she enjoys.


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