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Nurturing an Advanced Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: My son is now 2yrs and 3 months and he can identify numbers up to 100. Spell words, can write letters of the alphabet and numbers with dotted lines and now he has started writing letters A,C,D,H, L on his own. Identify parts of the body even complex one e.g. belly button, thanks to his tablet. he learns many things from his tablet. I've never sat down to teach him but informally join to facilitate him sometimes.

At 13 months, my son could spell his name, state alphabets A-Z, name colours (white, green, blue, orange, brown, pink, purple, red, black), identify and name shapes (square, triangle, rectangle, crescent, circle), state numbers 0-20 with a little guidance up to 30), identify and name about 10 models of cars at this age. Below is what he typed on the PC without guidance at 13 months.

11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

By age 2, he could spell a few the car models, memorise his father's mobile no. and can even call him by dialling the number using my mobile phone. I didn't want to teach him more mobile numbers, for fear, i may do him more harm or confuse him. He favourite cartoon is Mickey Mouse and never wants to miss the High 5 series. Other favourite programs when he was less than a year is baby first TV CDs. He learnt most of his vocabulary by watching this program.

Hope that your response will help me to take decide an the necessary steps to be taken to enhance his ability. Thank you!

A: From your description of the characteristics mentioned, your son does appear to have advanced abilities which place him as potentially gifted. It is quite interesting to note his ability to type out his name and numbers up to 30 at 13 months.

A good start in nurturing his 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. Visual stimuli often fascinate the gifted toddler, but his exploration of his world will require an alert adult, to keep dangerous items out of his reach. This is often when the child will show remarkable ability in terms of learning to speak, identifying letters and numbers and will get around the terrain with ease.

Some gifted toddlers will learn to read words well before the age of two years. You mentioned spelling of words but is he interested in reading? Do explore his interest in reading. If the parent frequently reads to the child and identifies letters, reading capability may become apparent amazingly early. You may want to read to your son often and provide a wide variety of stimuli. Take him to the library, bookstore and educational toy store to let him explore. Purchase toys that he becomes absorbed in, realizing that he will tire of any item quickly and need to go on to something more complex. One great idea is to team up with other mothers for a toy exchange and circulate sturdy toys among the group to save money on purchases.

To create interest in books, you may start with activities that includes 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 would need to involve 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 play time. It is good to hear that he is playing with age appropriate toys. 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 possibly cause a laid back attitude in future). The following are a few tips that you can use at this stage and later to encourage him learning:

Help him 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 him to contribute.

  • You can also watch educational programs with him and ask him the “whys” and “whats” - and then explain.

  • Look for similarities and differences and have him group things that belong.

  • Create a scenario and ask him about what could happen in certain situations.

You may also want to look out for play schools which may be a great environment for him to also develop him initial social skills - he does appear to be interested in interaction. However, there is a possibility of him being viewed as bossy at some point in the later stages of development - but it may be a leadership quality that he could be misunderstood for.

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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