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Development of a Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 28 months old and he has been skimming through the pages of books since he was about 3 months old. He was actually born at 7 1/2 months and was a bit delayed in speaking, but now that he has started, he will not stop. He can repeat any word that you say to him and he has been identifying letters and numbers off of anything. He will be reading letters and number off fast food containers, t-shirts, magazines, books, etc. He does not recite the alphabet in order not recite the numbers, but he is able to tell them to me when he flips though his books. He identifies pictures in books, can draw a circle, and draw the number "1".

He also shows a lot of interest in learning everything and whenever he cannot remember a word, he will point and make us tell it to him. He is a very inquisitive little boy and always wants to learn new things and their function. I have wondered whether he is advanced (gifted) and what other things can be done to encourage his intelligence. One of my major concerns is whether he will be able to communicate all that he knows in the future when he goes to school. I have noticed that when we visit someone he will not speak nor do anything compared to what he does at home with us. He also seems to "follow the crowd" and misbehave when other young kids are with him. I feel that he might be influenced to follow bad crowds and may not want to increase his intelligence because he may want to be misbehaving and playing instead. 

A: From what you had described, your son appears to be developing well. It is good that he has interest in books and you should by all means provide him with the reading materials appropriate for his level.

It is hard to tell if he is above average as your description is rather limited to what most of his peers are able to do. However, as a parent you may know and be able to determine better if he shows advanced skills in certain areas, hence it is good to observe his activities.

Whether he is able to communicate what he knows in school should not be a concern at this stage. In fact, not many children are able to use what they have learnt in formal settings as school curriculum can be quite different. But he will be able to apply whatever he learns as a child eventually. Like most children, at this age, they are quite shy and not very comfortable having other adults around. They should not be expected to do the things they do at home. The more you expose them to the outside world and people, the more confident they would get and mingling becomes easier. This is totally natural so please do not worry too much here.

You should also not worry too much about him "following the crowd" as that is what children do. Children are more attracted to movement, so they would tend to pay more attention to other children who are aggressive rather than the ones who are quiet. This is a very natural tendency of all children. He is in fact too young to know if he wants to increase his intelligence. More importantly, following crowds of other children and misbehaving is a totally different matter with regards to intelligence. It would surely not lessen his intelligence in any way. If his behavior is of concern and perhaps getting worse, you may need to slowly discipline him. You could also avoid such places where children tend to be aggressive. A playschool may be a good place for him to release his energy. Rather than misbehaving, I think it may just be his way to using up his energy as most children do.

Expose him to the world of books and educational toys and try to take him out as often as you can to familiarize him with the outside environment. It's just a matter of time. I'm sure he will be fine - he is really very young.


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