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Nurturing an Advanced Toddler

By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D

Q: I need some advice regarding my 22 month old daughter. She has a vocabulary of approximately 350 words, can talk in full sentences comprising of 4 words. Her longest sentence was 7 words (mama I want to see this ABCD song). She knows and can say 10 different colors, 9 different shapes, can say and point to 10 different body parts. She can do alphabet puzzles, 5-6 piece puzzles and can sort shapes very nicely. She knows all alphabets (upper case) and can sing the alphabet song. She can count from 1-20 and identifies the numbers. She can sing some lines from her favorite nursery rhymes, with appropriate actions.

She can state her wants very nicely, e.g. if she sees a bunch of balloons and wants a balloon of a specific color she will say 'mama I want pink balloon', she will also specifically ask for a food she loves (e.g. I want blueberries). If she finishes eating she will ask for more ( e.g. I want more waffle). If she sneezes, she will say I want tissue. She loves pretend play, especially taking care of her doll, feeding her and putting her to bed. She has also started becoming more possessive and uses terms as mine and my. If another kid takes her book, she will snatch it back and say 'that's my book'. She's yet to get the concept of sharing. She knows and can manipulate our emotions well. e.g. if I scold her, she will make a puppy face, ignore me and run to her father, calling for him. If I still pay no attention to her she will call out my name and smile sweetly, that will surely melt away my anger!

I am wondering if these traits sound like she is possibly gifted? If yes, then what should I do to nurture her development? Your advice will be greatly appreciated.

A: As a rule of thumb, gifted children would demonstrate development that is at least 30% more advanced than their peers. At 22 months, it can be hard to determine giftedness, however, parents can tell if their child has a potential for giftedness. 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 it does not, the child would lose interest in learning and may become disillusioned and probably disruptive. On the other hand, a bright child would do well in most learning environment 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.

Your daughter does show above average qualities. At this point, though, I would suggest that instead of labeling her, give her the best that you can in terms of his learning exposure. The activities suggested for young gifted children are suitable for most children as well. Make sure that there is a variety of activities and enough learning exposure for meaningful learning.

Your daughter has above average development; especially verbal development and this usually help other areas which she has already mastered. Gifted children experience peaks in learning. The presence of talking early may signal giftedness, but the absence does not mean that it is not there either. Parents ought to look for other indicators such as large vocabulary, excellent memory, varied interests and an exceptional ability in a particular subject. Your description indicates that your girl is quite well-balanced in her above-average growth and development.

A good start in nurturing her potential would be to encourage her to follow her interests, which you are probably doing already. 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 gifted children, so it is always important to vary 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). Then, drop the activity and allow her some free play time.

Ensure that she remains challenged all the time so as not to have any time to be idle (which may cause laziness in future). 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, etc.

  • 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.

  • When she is ready (perhaps at 3 or so in her case) introduce mathematics using money (such as to buy things).

Hope the tips are helpful and have a great learning journey with your daughter. Keep monitoring her progress and encourage her to learn positively. Play schools may be a good place for her to develop her initial social skills. All the best!


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