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Top Tips for Exploring Interests and Developing Talent in Gifted Kids Outside of School

Gifted Resources

We here at the Davidson Institute have put together some resources to help gifted students explore their interests—whatever they may be. It may seem like age is an obstacle to helping your gifted child pursue their passion, so this compilation of suggestions tries to incorporate suggestions for a wide age range.  

We invite you to look at our top tips below. These are tried and true strategies we’ve seen families in our program use to dig deeper into interests. This might be a good place to start, or it might be useful as a brainstorming tool if you find yourself stuck on the journey of talent development. 

Build a Read/Watch/Listen List.  

One way to really dig deep into an area of interest is to make a list of different books, documentaries, TV shows, podcasts, magazines, blogs, and other pieces on the topic and then work through each of those one-by-one. 

For example, let’s say your child is interested in astronomy–stars in particular. The librarian suggests several titles to browse including The Stars: The Definitive Visual Guide to the Cosmos. You also discover that there’s a radio program called StarDate and a TV show called Cosmos. Your family could decide to listen to StarDate each week and make time to watch all the back episodes of Cosmos (or pick some favorites), while your child works through The Stars (it’s 256 pages so it will probably take a little bit of time). You could also add in activities your child wants to do that are inspired by what they’re reading and watching. For example, maybe they read Night Sky: A Field Guide to the Constellations, and then you decide together to start keeping a star-gazing journal based on which constellations you can see from their bedroom window each night. Really, this is like creating a little class but way better because you get to decide what to read, what to do, and when your family is doing it. In college, this is called creating a syllabus, but you don’t have to be a college professor. You can do this yourself!  

Not sure where to start? Try these resources! 

What to Read 

Books: We know that many profoundly gifted children are avid readers, and now they have lots more time to read. Use the book lists below to find recommendations on what they could read next. You might check to see if books can be rented through your local library for free through a program like Overdrive or Libby, and services like Audible can deliver audiobooks to you instantly. 

Magazines are another way to get new reading material into your house. Here are a few that are popular in the Davidson community: 

  • Cricket Media publishes several magazines for kids of different ages from 6 to 14. 
  • Ask is about science, history, inventors, artists, and more, all written just for readers, ages 6-9. 
  • Cobblestone is an American history magazine for readers, ages 9-14. 
  • Cricket is a magazine of fiction, classic literature, and nonfiction stories on culture, history, science, and the arts. Each issue includes a signature cast of rambunctious bug characters who offer humorous commentary on the stories (ages 9-14). 
  • Faces takes readers, ages 9-14, around the world and back to see how children in other countries and world regions live. 
  • Muse is the science and arts magazine for kids (ages 9-14) that’s spot on with the facts, but off-kilter with the jokes. 
  • Spider includes fun stories, poems, activities and illustrations by famous children’s artists (for ages 6-9). 
  • Ember is a journal of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Submissions for and by readers aged 10 to 18 are strongly encouraged. 
  • The Girls’ Angle Bulletin is a bimonthly math magazine with interviews, articles, problems, activities, art, and much more. 
  • National Geographic Kids is published by National Geographic specifically for children. 
  • New Moon Girls is written by girls and for girls, ages 8 and up. 
  • Polyphony Lit is an international digital literary journal edited and written by teens. 
  • Ranger Rick and Zoobooks magazines are published by the National Wildlife Federation and focus on learning about animals from around the world. 
  • Science News for Students is a digital publication for students that focuses on the latest developments in the scientific community. 
  • Stone Soup has been publishing stories, poems, art, and reviews by kids since 1973. 
  • Teen Ink offers teens the opportunity to publish their creative work and opinions on issues that affect their lives. 
  • TIME for Kids covers a variety of topics for readers in grades K-6. The magazine is typically distributed to classrooms but homeschool parents can order copies here. The organization is also offering a free digital library until the end of the school year. 
  • In addition to magazines written for young people, many profoundly gifted children enjoy magazines written for the general public such as Astronomy, Make:Magazine, Natural History, and Scientific American. 

What to Listen To 

Podcasts are one easy way to engage children in interesting topics whenever you need a moment. They can also spark good conversation around the breakfast, lunch, or dinner table. 

  • Each Book Club for Kids episode gives a different group of kids the chance to discuss a young adult book. Each episode also features a celebrity reader and an interview with the book’s author (ages 9-14). 
  • Brains On! is for curious families. Each week, a different kid co-host joins Molly Bloom to find answers to fascinating questions about the world.  The mission is to encourage kids’ natural curiosity and wonder using science and history. 
  • BrainStuff seeks to explore–and explain–the everyday science in the world around us. 
  • The History of the World in 100 Objects podcast is hosted by the director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, who narrates 100 programs that retell humanity’s history through the objects we have made. 
  • Myths and Legends talks about how folklore has shaped the world. There are stories of kings, Vikings, dragons, wizards, and more! 
  • The Past & The Curious shares little-known stories from history, often humorously relayed. 
  • Short & Curly is an ethics podcast from Australia. The hosts investigate dilemmas relevant to kids, like whether you have to love your sibling or whether Pokemon Go is actually playing you (ages 7-12). 
  • Science Friday discusses everything from the outer reaches of space to the tiniest microbes in our bodies. Students can listen to the podcast live on Fridays from 2:00pm-4:00pm Eastern Time. 
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class has some of the greatest and strangest stories from the annals of history. 
  • Tumble is a science podcast that shares the stories behind science discovery. It explores how science actually works as a process. It’s co-hosted by a science journalist and a teacher (ages 6-12). 

What to Watch 

YouTube Channels & Educational Video Sites: Beyond podcasts, educational video sites–including YouTube channels–can instantly deliver content to your children in engaging ways. Below are a few: 

  • The Brain Scoop was developed by the Chief Curiosity Correspondent at the Field Museum, a natural history museum in Chicago. 
  • CrashCourse and CrashCourseKids were created by John and Hank Green. They offer video courses on a variety of topics–from astronomy to U.S. history to mythology. 
  • The Great Courses (and their streaming service, The Great Courses Plus) offers lectures series on a variety of topics, including fine arts, mathematics, and history. 
  • Numberphile is a channel about the many things that make numbers and related concepts intriguing. 
  • It’s Okay to Be Smart explores the scientific world, including physics, food science, earth science, and more. 
  • SciShow and SciShow Kids are channels where students can quench their curiosity about science and more. There are also two more specialized channels: SciShow Space and SciShow Psych. 
  • Talks at Google is a channel curated by Google. As they say, this is where great minds meet. 
  • TED is home to the popular and inspiring TED Talks. There’s a talk on almost any topic you could think of. 
  • TED-Ed is an interdisciplinary educational website that offers video-based lessons organized by age and subject. 

There are also several companies that offer Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) such as edX and Coursera. 

Order a Subscription Box. 

These boxes often contain everything you need to get your student started on projects on all different topics. Getting a special gift in the mail can also build more excitement around the project at hand. The best part? Most of these are designed for students to do independently. 

  • Bitsbox is a learning system that teaches real coding and introduces real computer science concepts (ages 6-12). 
  • EEME stands for electrical engineering and mechanical engineering; their boxes include activities for kids, ages 7+. 
  • Spangler Science Club boxes are filled with the science tools and resources needed to explore real-world STEM activities (ages 5-12). They also have a free experiment library. 
  • KiwiCo offers differently themed subscription boxes for all ages: 
  • Kiwi Crate includes fun and enriching science, engineering, and art projects (ages 5-8). 
  • Atlas Crate focuses on geography and includes globally-inspired projects to help students explore world cultures and teach new STEAM concepts (ages 6-11). 
  • Doodle Crate includes art supplies and DIY project ideas (ages 9-16+). 
  • Tinker Crate: Hands-on STEM projects (ages 9-16+) 
  • Maker Crate: Art and design tools to grow creative and artistic confidence (ages 14-104) 
  • Eureka Crate: Science and engineering projects (ages 14-104) 
  • Little Passports encourages exploration of the United States and the world through activities, readings, and souvenirs (ages 3-5, 6-8, and 9+). 
  • History Unboxed offers hands-on history lessons from around the world (ages 5-9, 10-15, and 16+). 
  • Green Kid Crafts boxes include a wide range of hands-on science, engineering, and art projects each month focused on a different theme (ages 2-5, 5-10, and 10+) 
  • Finders Seekers is an adventure for the whole family. Each month, you’ll explore a different place. You solve puzzles and unlock clues as you learn about the history of the place and explore local traditions. 
  • Brick Loot is the subscription box for LEGO lovers. It includes several items each month to inspire new LEGO creations based on a theme. 

We know that some of these can be expensive. Instead, you might consider making your own surprise project box. Check out some tips on how to do so in “How to Make Your Own Learning Experiences with Adventure Boxes.” If you feel like you’re strapped for supplies, think outside of the box: What about a box where your children are encouraged to make musical instruments out of items from the recycle bin? Or what about a box where children have to make funny poems by cutting out words from an old newspaper or junk mail that accumulated over the last week? Or, what about a simple envelope with a “secret mission” for the day–maybe building a “spy” training obstacle course in the backyard? 

Make a Space. 

Once your child has the supplies to dive into their areas of interest and develop their talent, they probably also need a place to work on these projects. One of the things that can keep us from working on a project is having to get out everything and then put it all away every time we want to do some work. One way to avoid this common snag can be to have your child carve out a corner of their room or take over part of an unused space in your home, garage, or backyard. If your family works from home, consider giving them a workspace of their own to dedicate to focusing. 

Now What?  

One you have the supplies and space, how can you go about developing a larger project?  

Here are some ideas:  

  • Look around your local community. Depending on where you live, your family likely has access to a public library. Librarians’ jobs are to help patrons come up with books to read and material to consume on certain topics. So, if you were looking to build a read/watch/listen list, then you could ask your local librarian for suggestions. Many libraries also have movies to rent or magazine subscriptions that are included with your library card. Your librarian also might know of a local business or scientist in town that may be able to answer specific questions that you have. 
  • Create a museum. Beyond making a space to work, you could also build or dedicate a museum in your house to display creations. This could be a simple shelf with objects and labels or a gallery in a hallway with framed pieces. When we think about museums, we often think about art galleries, science centers and history museums. But there are museums for everything like the National Museum of Mathematics and the National Mustard Museum. Even zoos, aquariums, arboretums, and botanical gardens are considered museums; they just have living collections! 
  • Make the most of family trips. If your family is planning a trip, consider asking your child for help planning one or two activities. Perhaps there’s a special place or an event that would let them explore their interest on the trip. Do they have a favorite author? Perhaps they are giving a talk nearby. Are they a budding painter? Maybe there is a workshop at an art museum, or a tour of public murals given by a local artist. Not only is this a way to involve them in the trip, but it is also a way to practice skills for independence and adulthood. 
  • Publish or participate in a competition. Does your child want to get their work to a wider audience? There are several magazines that publish student work. For example, Stone Soup publishes work by students ages 13 and under exclusively; no adults allowed! There are also many individual competitions that your child could enter. For example, if they’re interested in ancient civilizations, maybe they could participate in the National Mythology Exam. Check out our list of academic competitions for gifted students. 
  • Start a blog or video series. If your child is computer or video savvy, they could document all you’re doing and learning through a blog or a video series. There is a lot to consider when putting information online. If your family isn’t too keen on sharing stuff so publicly, they could make a private/hidden blog or video series or go old school. Perhaps they can build their own books (book binding is still a profession!) or make their own printing press to publish their ideas. 
  • Get creative! The last few thoughts were a lot about putting your ideas out there with words. But there are lots of ways to turn your dreams into reality. If your child is building their own board game, maybe your local library or makerspace has a 3D printer they can use to create the game pieces.  

 

Comments

Lisa Straughn

I love the ideas shared for enrichment both in school and home!

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Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

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