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Advanced Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My daughter is 17 months, she says 5 word sentences, knows numbers 1-5 and some colors and wants potty training! She can name nearly every body part and knows them on other people too, she is so aware of what people do and who they are and makes unusual connections. She understands missing someone when they are gone and will wait till tomorrow if I tell her we will go somewhere tomorrow and first thing in the morning will ask about it! She watches sign language programs and signs with them, she will watch uninterrupted for long periods of time and laughs at the jokes. She uses difficultly pronounced words like obstacle course and asks to visit certain people. Does she need extra stimulation or should I just let her continue as is? If so what should I do to stimulate her more? She pages through books since 4 months and can name everything including emotions and feels sympathy! Please advise me on whether of not I'm just a proud parent or in need of further stimulation activities. Many thanks.

A: From your description, it is obvious that your little one is rather advanced compared to her peers. Whether she is gifted or not, you should certainly be a proud parent. At this stage, development can be uneven so it may be hard to determine if the child is gifted. Some children are able to master certain aspects of learning more quickly than other but may develop physical skills more slowly; or there may be others who have highly advanced physical skills but delayed in communication. What is true for all ch8ildren is that at this stage, learning happens best through play and that is what you should be providing for your child.

Regardless of whether your child is advanced, you need to provide proper stimulation as all children learn through stimulation; the difference is that advanced children learn and grasp information faster therefore would need more stimulating and challenging activities.
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. 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 playtime.

Have you tried introducing her to the world of books? If not, start now. You may need to provide more books or introduce her to the library. Pretend play is also crucial and this is when they develop their brain and unleash their creativity, so make sure she has time on her own to create her own play. Monitor and guide her but try not to control what she does during her free playtime. This will help her explore and discover on her own which is very important.

Ensure that she remains challenged all the time so as not to have any time to be idle. 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 that may be a great environment for her to also develop her initial social skills. Alternatively, you can arrange for a play date with children or similar mental age. Remember that even if kids as such may be quite advanced in an area like language, it may not be necessarily so on the social-emotional aspect. This would mean they may possibly lack self-control, attention and listening skills (especially for academic-centered enrichment or other very structured learning experiences).

Be the proudest parent ever to be blessed with a child! 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. Happy parenting!


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