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Enrichment for Bright Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I have never had my daughter evaluated by anyone, but all of my friends comment on how smart my child is. She is 18 months. She knows the alphabet completely and can count to 10 unassisted, sometimes she will go to 20. She sings certain songs that she likes by herself. She has a vocabulary of probably 200 words and puts 3-4 words together to make sentences. She is a very attention-seeking child. She needs to be stimulated all the time. She has tons of toys, but is very rarely interested in playing with them alone.

She requires substantially more sleep than most babies her age. 8pm-8:30am on average, a 2-3 hour nap, then a 1 hour nap. My question is: are these characteristics of a typical child or should I be enrolling her in a program somewhere to enhance her learning abilities? Thank you in advance.

A: From your description, your little one seems quite bright. The characteristics are typical for a bright child; but there is a lot more that can be done to enhance her learning. Most children at her age require constant stimulation as they are in the exploratory stage.

As for sleep, the typical gifted child is often said to require less sleep (as their brain is constantly working and it is sometimes hard to shut down); however sleep issue cuts both ways - some highly advanced children need a lot of sleep and some need much lesser. An 18 month old on average sleeps eleven and a quarter hours at night and two and a quarter hours during one midday/afternoon nap. At age two, sleep requirements drop to eleven hours at night and two during the day. Over the next year that average will drop to ten and a half hours at night and one and a half during the day. I am not able to tell if she is sleeping more than necessary - please check with your paediatrician.

At 18 months, your little one may be walking by now, but may still need a helping hand (e.g., to climb the stairs). She is still exploring her ability to walk and climb as well with her balance. Music is great – use a lot of music for learning, as she appears to enjoy it. It will help enhance her vocabulary. You could even jiggle with her.

Regardless of whether her characteristics are typical or not, at this stage the best thing parents can do is to allow exploration and exposure to various learning materials. If there is a programme that you would like to enrol her in, by all means do it. Especially if she wants someone to play with her at all times - it could be rather tiring for you so allowing her to mingle with other children or adults in a programme may be beneficial. How much she absorbs learning and the pace will guide you to go on to more stimulating play. All you need to do is expose her to new materials and allow her to learn at her own pace. If she has mastered learning at one stage, move on to the next challenge.

At this stage, all parents should monitor children's learning progress and allow learning accordingly. Allow her to learn by allowing her to explore and discover as much as possible. She would need a good foundation at this stage and most of the activities suitable for her age group should be attempted and from there you will be able to see how she progress and gradually increase the stimulation with acceleration of activities that she finds meaningful and a variety of them.

All the best!


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