Does your baby stare at everything intensely? Does your toddler complete jigsaw puzzles meant for older children? Does your preschooler read every sign and ask ‘why’ all the time? Does your kindergartner multiply in his head? Check out some of the characteristics of giftedness in young children at different stages.
Many gifted babies seem to have intense focus and take in everything they see. They seem to be able to recognise faces at an earlier stage. Some may crawl earlier. They start cruising when others are still crawling. Some of them might have already started babbling. I have heard of babies who start talking young. They can pay attention to books, and they play with building blocks.
My children showed great interest in the iPad and iPhone. They knew when I gave them fake phones. They even tried to swipe magazines, thinking they were non-static. They enjoyed peekaboos tremendously.
Now that they can walk, they are able to explore many places. The fences and gates you have put up to keep them out of danger are danger themselves. They try all sorts of ways to get out of them. Some have already started running.
While it differs from toddlers to toddlers, many of them show they are good at puzzles and memory work. They know which card stands for what word, they know what the animals are called, and they can point or find them easily. Depending on the level of giftedness, some of them are already talking.
They can say simple words, and some could even put two to three words together. Some may even start stringing sentences together.They can also understand complex situations. They may enjoy the company of older children or adults than their age peers, because their peers still unable to communicate much.
For numbers, many can count beyond ten, sometimes to hundred or more. They understand different shapes and sizes. They like to identify colours.
Some toddlers may start to have meltdowns, because their language abilities have not caught up with their thoughts, and they get extremely frustrated with their inability to express themselves, or that their caregivers are not able to decode their signals. It might be useful to teach them sign language or have some common gestures to signal what they want.
When my children were at the toddler stage, they enjoyed jigsaw puzzles meant for 3 years and above. My younger one could put 30 pieces together on his own. The older one could spell and type on the computer and iPad, so he searched for cartoons and songs on his own. He learnt to read on his own and was devouring books soon.
This is probably the time when they are the cutest. They can finally talk and communicate properly with adults and it is interesting to see their ideas. They say the funniest things and sometimes create their own phrases. They also start asking tonnes of questions, so Google is your best friend.
Many start developing their passions for various topics. They memorise everything about dinosaurs, animals, capital cities and countries, cartoons, and any other topics that catch their fancies. As many can read already, just provide them the various books and other resources (such as youtube videos and the internet), and they will just learn on their own. This is the time when they expect you to know everything too. They may test you, or just want to unload all the information they have learnt on you.
This is also a time when teachers tell you your child is different. Some children may survive well, while others get bored out of their minds. They are so advanced in arithmetic and literacy skills that teachers find it difficult to match their needs and the rest of the class. Behavioural issues may crop up, and if you do not already suspect your child is gifted, you may actually think that your child has ADHD or some other learning issues.
Many enjoy singing and other musical instruments. They may love drawing or painting. Some may have asynchronous development, and may not have well developed fine motor skills, so frustration may set in too.
My elder son started scribbling when he entered preschool. He was always writing something, but because his fine motor skills were not that well developed, it was difficult to see what he had written. He was reading all the charts in the classroom, and it was fortunate that his teachers were able to recognise he was ahead. They said he could get all the puns and jokes. I also had to read up on dinosaurs and even Ben 10 just to have something in common to talk about.
My younger one is asking all sorts of questions and is able to ask and answer ‘why’ questions. He has a wide range of vocabulary. He has memorised simple books with the aid of pictures. However, he is not reading well. He is able to read Chinese characters, but when it comes to English, he cannot differentiate between ‘car’ and ‘cat’. He can count big numbers, and tell me he takes bus service number ‘54’, but puts ‘45’ together. There are some number reversals as well. There is asynchronous development here, so I am suspecting he might be twice exceptional, but it is still early to tell.
At this stage, many have started reading chapter books and they enjoy intellectual challenges. They start to use vocabulary that is beyond usual conversations. They are also able to explain meanings. They understand abstract concepts, and can do additions, multiplications and other types of mathematics. Some can calculate in their heads.
Since kindergarten is too easy for them, it is important for parents to challenge them at home. There are online materials available.
Many of them have empathy for people and world affairs. They are sensitive to people’s feelings, and may cry during a touching scene. They are also creative and they like to create their own stories, characters, drawings and models. They may try their hands at creating jokes.
While they prefer the company of adults and older children, they should be able to interact better with some of the peers who have matured more. If they have common topics, it would be better.
Many have favourite computer games, and some have tried their hands at coding.
My elder son has been creating his own comic characters based on objects at home, and is coming up with his own story of survival and elimination rounds based on some online shows he is watching. He just told me that he did not know a lot of words when I was saying that he did, and he requested for an advanced learner’s dictionary from Longman. He just had to choose the most expensive one and did not want a small one.
While he has finished reading Danger Dan in one day, a book about a boy who time travels to Singapore’s history to ensure history is not changed, coincidentally written by a gifted teenager with her mother, he does not read other books that often. He requests for Minecraft books and manuals. He has improved in his social skills and has more friends now, perhaps with some common topics such as Minecraft.
Now that my elder son is going to primary (elementary) school next year, he will be going to a new stage. It will be interesting to discover the new stages.