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Nurturing a Gifted Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: Hi! My son is 2 years 5 months old. I am listing some of his characteristics:

  1. He is extremely passionate about animal kingdom. Not only he knows all the names of all kinds of Dinosaurs, land and sea animals, bugs, birds he also knows information such as which continent they belong to, In what kind of environment they live , what they like to eat . Even he gets so happy and excited to see a tiny ant or bee .

  2. He has a bug catcher. His father helps him to catch bee or butterfly or other bugs but he likes to set them free after watching for sometime. He really likes and insists on the fact that they go back to their home.

  3. He is also very passionate about jigsaw puzzles relating to animals like Dino's and bugs etc. Right now he is doing 60 pieces jigsaw puzzles. 25 pieces or 36 pieces puzzles are too easy for him and he finishes in few minutes. Sometimes he also sits and do up to 8 jigsaw puzzles at one go. He does both kinds of jigsaw puzzles... one where you need to follow the given picture and other type where no picture is given only shapes are there you need to put the pieces according to the shape to complete the puzzle. For the picture jigsaws he doesn't really need to see picture after first or second time.

  4. He is speaking very clearly and can express all he wants to tell. He is extremely good at understanding instructions and carry them out from a very young age. As far as I remember I believe he could understand us from his first month. He also understands cause effect and can use the word because to join a sentence. If he heard one new word it's like he fits that word in his memory card in brain and next time he uses it in proper context.

  5. From very start he has a very strong memory and visual observation power. We could realize that in many instances.

  6. He can say A to Z and also correct words for every alphabets.

  7. He can count up to 40.

  8. Few words he can spell like boom, cat, sun , pop , moo , pig etc.

  9. He has extremely good sense of humor. Sometimes he intentionally make up weird stuff or give completely opposite answers to make up laugh. Sometimes he just add one weird word at the end of every sentence and laugh.

  10. He doesn't like to be forced and we never force him to do anything.

  11. He likes being tidy. If food or milk drop even little bit while eating he asks us to wipe it immediately.

  12. He is extremely loving.

  13. He had long attention span and till now all activities we did he listened and did accurately. We do lot of activities at home as he is not going to school yet. He loves doing things in organized way and love to be part of something where he can see a definite end result at the end or can see s definite cause effect relation.

  14. He has all kinds of animals and he prefer to clean up and keep them in their respective boxes after playing. He knows which thing belongs where and he keeps it where they belongs.

  15. When we read books he remembers and often supply me with correct words.

  16. In kids party he is more interested in exploring the building that going and jumping inside the bouncers. He would look through the window and see what's outside. He often separate himself from crowd and do things what he likes to. He is not interested in any activity which is done without any specific cause like jumping around as often kids do.

  17. He is very caring about people he loves.

Now my question to you is a below.

  1. Recently I saw one article on high IQ child. I would like to know your expert advice on what you feel after reading the above characterization of my boy.

  2. I saw some tests can be done. If so reading the above piece do you think I should do an IQ test? If yes where and how to proceed about it?

  3. How does the test result will help us to take decisions for his education and future?

  4. What are the things I should consider to guide such a kid?

Thank you!

A: From your detailed description, it appears that you have a gifted child at home. His intensities are strong and he seems to be absorbing learning very well and quickly at this stage. You appear to be on the right track in nurturing him. So for your first question, I do think that your child is highly advanced.

For your second and third question, it really depends. I am personally not quite in favour of testing very young children, as results may not be very stable and whatever the scores may be - it may put undue pressure on the child with expectations. It would be a good idea to wait until the child is a little older (usually around 5-8 years). Unless, of course there is a strong need to do the testing. Of course, the best time to test for giftedness is when you may want your questions on your child's ability answered objectively. This may include the kind of school you want to place him in, early entrance into preschool or to to decide on any intervention. For the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, do note that there is a ceiling effect for gifted 5 year olds). Hence if there is no urgency, wait for the child to be 6 if possible, to do the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.

For your 4th question, the best thing for a young gifted child to do is to be able to explore his/her surrounding that feeds the needs for that extra stimulation. Therefore, a great start would be to provide him with educational materials that challenge and stimulate his thinking. Monitor and observe his strengths and use activities that interest him to motivate him further. At this age, they should be provided with a variety of materials to determine what really interests them. At the same time, also monitor his dislikes. Say, if you find that he dislikes “numbers” related activities, find a different way to nurture that interest. Use measurements, for example to introduce the concept of numbers and simple math. Instead of direct math related activities, you can actually introduce simple math using measurement scales – e.g., by the beach, a pail of sand, half a pail of sand, etc. As long as the activity requires stimulation and interests the child, it would surely help the child learn.

Apart from direct learning, there are other ways to expose a young gifted child. For example, museum visits, field trips, visiting a farm, nature walk, etc. What is crucial here is the variety of activities. At the same time, allow for a good amount of free play - avoid “over guiding”. Parents sometimes get carried away and provide too much stimulation, and may not allow the child to self explore with limited time for free play. Allow the child to be on his own exploring the learning materials you have provided. For example, even if he is not able to complete a puzzle, get him to keep trying instead of running to his aid. When the child gets used to parents who keep helping them, it may deter them to think for themselves and always wanting parents to help out. They also become dependent on help. This may slow down the development of their cognitive abilities.

Do also read as much as you can on giftedness for greater awareness and if possible, join a local association for gifted children. Sharing information on parenting gifted children is one of the best ways to help nurture a gifted child. There is a lot of effort involved on your part to nurture him but the results can be very fulfilling. Here's wishing you the very best in your parenting journey. Good luck!


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