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Advanced or Gifted Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Hi. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know my son is advanced but I'm not sure if it's to the point of gifted he is 23mths old. I have magnetic letters on the fridge and when they are all mixed up he can put them in order of the alphabet he can also say the alphabet. He can pull out the letters and put them in order to spell his name as well as spelling his name aloud. He has taught himself to count to 10 and again I have magnetic numbers that he puts in order he has an obsession with books and jig-saws he is putting 36 piece jig-saws together without help.

He builds his blocks to match the pictures on the box again on his own. He has no interest in toys that don't give him something to think about eg: teddies. He is always looking for something new that will give him a challenge. He understands instructions if he asks for something and I tell him later he will so OK without a tantrum. He has no interest in toys that are recommended for his age he is happier with toys that are for older kids. He is not yet 2yrs old and I fear he will be board in playschool.

A: What a lovely child! Based on your description, it appears that he is certainly developing at a faster speed for his age, at the same time showing advanced maturity. The description is limited therefore hard to gauge. Furthermore, it is best not to label at this stage and just enjoy him and his abilities by providing him the best for his learning needs.

Whether gifted or not, he certainly has learning needs that must be catered for. Expose him to a variety of materials, which is what he requires at this point. There are quite a few things that can be done to further nurture his gifts. For this, you need to be aware of his needs as he grows which may be different from his age group. At the rate he is going, he could develop faster and each of his ability would need attention and nurturance.

Try to observe his likes and dislikes. If you find that he enjoys books very much, he should be exposed to them. Bear in mind that for advanced children, mere exposure may burn them out quite quickly. They need guidance and lots of variety in their interest areas. Apart from providing him with books, look for different activities that involves reading in a variety of environment. For example, take him to the library, read the newspaper with him (by showing headlines, pictures or commercials), reading him books, etc.

Further on reading, read books at naptime, bedtime, in the bath, or whenever you need to cut down on some action! A good way is to point out words and letters while you are out and about (“Look - the sign says S-T-O-P, STOP. Now the cars have to stop so we can cross”). Do the same with numbers; build upon his interests by playing counting games (“There are one, two, three ships on your shirt”). It also helps with the bonding.

You may do the same with his other interests. Variety is the key here as advanced children tend to absorb quite quickly and eventually may get bored with the same activity, even if they had once enjoyed it very much. If you find that he may not display abilities (or shows difficulties) in a certain area or perhaps dislikes certain subject matter especially if it is important (e.g. numbers, writing, drawing, etc.) you may want to slow down a little there and look for ways to excite him using various approaches and activities to instill interest. It is not going to be an easy task for parents and a lot of energy and patience is required. Try reading up as much as you can on above average toddlers (there is a lot of information from internet resources), hook up with parents of other highly able children; subscribe to parenting newsletters to keep track of the latest on giftedness, etc.

Make sure his enrichment is not limited to verbal and literacy - physical development is very important. Ensure that he has toys that will improve his eye-hand coordination and problem solving (blocks, beads, puzzles - he appears to have good skills here). Always remember, a balance of sufficient enrichment and guidance is important; not to the extent of pushing him. At this stage, the most important tools are plenty of love and security - this helps development of a sound and happy mind. Do not worry too much about his possible boredom in school – you could always tell his playschool teachers about his likes/dislikes and how best to help him make his learning more enjoyable at a playschool. For now, enjoy him and go with the flow! Best wishes in your parenting journey.


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