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Above Average Development Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I'm a mother of a 17 month old girl. I've been reading about the characteristics and behaviors of gifted children. My daughter was recently introduced to raisin bread. Although she enjoys it, she is focused on picking the raisins out of the bread. If she can't get it out with her fingers, she will eat around the raisins to get at them. I remember watching a program some years ago where a toddler was focused on picking the raisins out of a cookie and this was a sign of a highly intelligent child. Not sure if there's any truth to this. Some other characteristics:

  • My daughter has been watching programs since the age of 3-4 months. She will sit through two episodes of her favorite cartoon back to back.

  • I also believe she is very observant, since infancy. Many people, even strangers would often comment on how observant she is.

  • She has a long attention span.

  • She likes to flip through books.

  • She enjoys being on her own and playing with her toys at long lengths of time but also loves interaction with other children. I have even seen her attempt to console other children when they are upset.

  • Drawn to music; even though she maybe focused on some kind of activity, the moment she hears music on TV, she will re-direct her attention immediately

  • likes to explore

Not sure if any of this means anything but perhaps you can shed some light on the subject. Thank you for your time and consideration.

A: From your description, it does sound like your little one is accelerating at a faster pace than her peers. On picking the raisins from the bread - this actually indicates ability to focus and stay focussed which is perseverance; an ability distinct to gifted individuals. And it is great that you are aware of what is happening at an early stage.

In general, today, it is much harder to determine giftedness since many children are exposed to various activities by parents; these activities actually make them learn faster due to mere exposure regardless of ability. Children are like sponges; they absorb learning quite rapidly, and enthusiastic parents certainly help in their development. For example, a gifted toddler may learn to read at three, and so will a bright toddler. The earlier one reads, the faster learning will take place. However, a gifted child would need much more stimulation and any learning activity needs to match their intellectual capabilities. If s/he does not, the child would lose interest in learning and may become disillusioned and probably disruptive. On the other hand, a bright child would do well in most learning environments and would usually be toppers. They adapt to learning quite easily and are viewed as "good, obedient children". Naturally, a bright child is easier to nurture compared to a gifted child.

A good start in nurturing her potential would be to encourage her to follow her interests at this point. In case you find that she is fascinated with something, do more of it and gradually increase its complexity. She appears to enjoy books, so you may start with activities that includes reading, story telling, looking at pictures, etc. Have different types of reading materials in terms of texture - magazines, newspapers, books with hard/soft covers, fabric types and so on. Gifted children are sensitive to texture and this would enhance their sense of touch. Having said that, more work of the same kind may sometimes bore above average children, so it is always important to try to have variations of the same activity. This involves creativity on your side. You must also know when to stop - a good cue is to observe when she starts to lose interest (irritable, distracted). If this happens, drop the activity and allow her some free play time. It is good to hear that she is playing with age appropriate toys. Pretend play is crucial and this is when they develop their brain and unleash their creativity.

Ensure that she remains challenged all the time so as not to have any time to be idle (which may cause laziness in future). The following are a few tips that you can use at this stage and later to encourage her learning:

Help her determine differences; compare and contrast things/people:

  • Use measurement words often: little, more, many, half, quarter, etc. as an introduction to early math.

  • Instead of reading stories from books all the time, create your own and try to get her to contribute.

  • You can also watch educational programs with her and ask her the “whys” and “whats” - and then explain.

  • Look for similarities and differences and have her group things that belong.

  • Create a scenario and ask her about what could happen in certain situations.

You may also want to look out for play schools which may be a great environment for her to also develop her initial social skills - she does appear to be interested in interaction. However, there is a possibility of her being viewed as bossy at some point in the later stages of development - but it may be a leadership quality that she could be misunderstood for.

Hope the tips are helpful and have a great learning journey with your little one. Keep monitoring her progress and encourage her to learn positively. All the best!


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