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Highly Advanced Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is 26 months. At 17 months, we notice that he recognizes alphabets, numbers, colors, shapes and animals. The next month he was singing the alphabet and the one that symbolizes the letter for examples a is for apple. After that he knows the numbers, shapes everything that he knows even if you just write it on a paper, no picture just words he can tell you what is it. Even the shapes that are not commonly known for a 2year old child he knows it such as pentagon, decagon, nonagon...etc.

Recently, I downloaded an app called Solarwalk which shows solar system..3 days of watching it but telling him only once what planet is that, the next 3days shocked me. He already knows all the planets and even recognize it even if its only written in words. He is watching nursery rhymes singing countries of the world. I am shocked again that he remember every country in the song. Even if I show him the words no pictures he can answer me. I really wanted to know if he is really gifted so I will know how to handle him. Thank you!

A: Based on your description, there is little doubt that your little boy has a number of distinct characteristics of a highly advanced toddler. If he is gifted, which is very likely based on your description (we try not to label them at such a tender age), you would have a very interesting journey with quite a lot of effort that needs to be put in initially to be able to help him meet his mental needs. Gifted children belong to a special group and are considered exceptional. With proper care in terms of their educational and emotional needs, they will have the ability to achieve a lot more than their average counterpart. This means he will require extra attention and academic effort as he grows.

A few things to be noted if a toddler may be gifted:

  • Ability to self learn and apply

  • Early acquisition of language and concept (e.g., colours)

  • Demonstration of extreme advanced skills in areas such as sorting and categorising stuff

  • Large vocabulary with good grammar

  • Unusually early understanding of cause and effect

  • Persistence in meaningful tasks - desire to learn more and practice tasks it is mastered

  • A stronger preference for interacting with older, more advanced children or adults

  • The quality of questions asked

Remember that he would need varied and stimulating activities that are meaningful. Try out new things. As he is very young, you should just keep exposing him to many new things and he will show interest in a few, little interest in others and perhaps no interest in some. Allow him a lot of free play under guidance but try not to interfere too much. Cognitively advanced children learn best when they self explore and discover.

As I have advised previously, a good start in nurturing an advanced child's potential would be to encourage him to follow his interests at this point. In case you find that he is fascinated with something, do more of it and gradually increase its complexity. You can even get him started to explore the world of books (e.g., activities that include 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 he starts to lose interest (irritable, distracted). If this happens, drop the activity and allow him some free playtime. Pretend play is crucial and this is when they develop their brain and unleash their creativity.

Ensure that he remains challenged all the time so as not to have any time to be idle which may cause such children to throw tantrums or be disruptive especially at his age. Make sure that his enrichment is not limited to verbal and literary - physical development is very important. Ensure that he has toys that will improve his eye-hand coordination and problem solving skills (blocks, beads, puzzles, etc.). Remember a balance of sufficient enrichment and guidance is important, not to the extent of pushing him. At this stage, the most important tool is plenty of love and security - this helps development of a sound and happy mind.

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


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