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Advanced Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My daughter just turn 3 years old, but her behavior were always different from other similar age children.

  • She never like the toys in her age, always like to flip through the books since 4 months.

  • She memorized alphabet and numbers in less than month at the ages of 20 months.

  • She loves watching different children's show and she'll memorized the show after few reviewing, since she was 12 months or less. It start with watching her own video and memorized and she gets bored easily.

  • Instead of playing with toys, she likes to play puzzles and flip through the books. All the books that she has can't read on her own, but remembers all the titles.

  • Very emotional with music. She'll express her feeling towards the types of music she is listening to.

  • She is very organized, if she put someone in one spot, it have to be in that spot, if not she gets upset.

I never potty train nor any other training, just talk to her and let her know what was going on and she listen. Also, she is very independent on everything. When she first starting learn how to eat, potty train, cleaning potty, using the smart phone and etc....She'll look and observe several times and she have to do on her own. Also, what surprise the most was, when she has toy (block, or puzzle) she'll sat over an hour just focusing trying to get it right.

Is this normal for her age? Thanks!

A: Your brief description does indicate that you have a very bright child. It is important that you are able to recognise her advanced abilities this before she is in school as you can now provide her the platform for ability-based learning. Your support, guidance and instruction that is appropriate to her skills will help her develop to her full potential. Some of the characteristics that is quite distinct for her age is her abilities to recognise letters, emotional intensity, perfectionism, early interest in books and boredom with routine tasks. Therefore, her development is rather advanced.

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 regardless of ability. All children are like sponges and 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 does 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. 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. It is good to hear that she has early interest in books. 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 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.

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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