If you suspect that your toddler is gifted, chances are you're right. Contrary to popular belief, all parents do not think their children are geniuses. In fact, many times a parent is reluctant to use the “g” word, if the child has not yet been formally assessed. Parents are often the first to notice their child is unusually bright, as they live with the child and can observe them from birth.
So what do gifted toddlers do? Every child is unique, but many gifted young children share similar patterns of development. Before age three, a gifted child might:
recognize printed words or be an actual reader
be highly verbal
take things apart
be able to follow multi step directions
appear to learn through osmosis
have an uncanny memory
demonstrate basic math skills
be able to complete complicated puzzles
exhibit early gross motor development
exhibit early fine motor development
be very sensitive
The highly verbal toddler may have started speaking in sentences before age one, or soon after her first birthday. She might have a large vocabulary, and add words to it without any external effort from the parent or caregiver. A child fortunate enough to be exposed to multiple languages may be able to go back and forth between English and Spanish, or combine them in interesting ways. She may talk a lot, with a constant stream of questions, or she may be quieter, and shock others when she suddenly makes a speech about the plight of homeless cats.
The child who enjoys taking things apart may use his hands at first, manually unscrewing ballpoint pens and electronic toys. By the time he turns three, he's probably mastered the screwdriver, and disassembled the dvd player.
Gifted toddlers sometimes tell stories about being in the womb, which parents believe or not according to their own preferences. They may recall events that happened a year ago, or even longer. Fond references to, “That nice doggie we played with at Grandpa's house” can be quite surprising when Mom and Dad realize that baby was only 14 months old last year when the visit to Grandpa's occurred.
Children like this will have an astonishing ability to memorize song lyrics, and they will rarely forget when you promise a treat after dinner!
Precocious young children who enjoy math often recognize numbers, and enjoy counting, sorting, and manipulating objects. They may get excited about kindergarten workbooks, and fly through them at an alarming pace.
Certain kids seem drawn to puzzles. Manipulating the little jigsaw pieces requires small motor dexterity as well as visual discrimination. A highly gifted toddler may have the talent and interest to complete a 100 piece puzzle without assistance.
A gifted one or two year old may be able to write legibly, to pedal a bike, to skip, jump, and hop. Many gifted tots are early walkers and they love to move their bodies in space, especially to music.
Finally, one trait that many gifted little ones share is both a blessing and a curse. Extreme sensitivity means that it may be hard for the child to calm down when upset. Strong reactions to noise, light, scents and textures are common in this population. Just ask in a room full of smart folks if any of their children are fussy about sock seams, turtlenecks, or stiff new jeans. And then there are the food issues....
Have fun with your special little one! The early childhood years are fleeting.