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Supporting Gifted Preschoolers

Gifted Testing and Identification

Parents of gifted babies or gifted toddlers may feel like they are at a loss when it comes to supporting their unique children. Formal research on gifted individuals under 5 is sparse. Many gifted identification practices are not implemented until age 6, and gifted program options through public schools may not be offered until grade three, if at all. Still, many parents report observing differences in their bright babies even without formal studies or testing to reference.

Gifted individuals are about as unique from each other as they are from the general population. However, there are some common experiences and signs that parents have noted in their young children who would later be identified as gifted. Generally speaking, many gifted babies may hit different developmental milestones early. Other cases report not showing any advancements but then moving past all milestones at once, such as in the case when a child may not progress through traditional speech benchmarks but then begins speaking in full sentences all at once. Some additional shared anecdotal observations include:

  • Ability to physically respond to social cues at a few days or weeks old. E.g., Makes eye contact when you speak even as a newborn.
  • Advanced physical or motor skills at a few weeks old. E.g., Sitting up by themselves at 3 months.
  • Ability to speak even when only a few weeks or months old. E.g., Can say all their ABCs at 14.5 months.
  • Advanced number sense at a few months old. E.g., Counting to 20 at 20 months.
  • Advanced ability to draw at a young age. E.g., Can draw faces and advanced shapes by age 2.
  • Ability to read at just a few years old. E.g., Reading books by age 3.

When the mainstream parenting literature doesn’t account for highly capable babies, it can be hard to know what to make of observations like those listed above. Parents may feel polarized between feeling like they are “pushing” their child too early and simultaneously may worry about “missing out” on opportunities to develop their gifted toddler’s potential. Luckily, there are many options to enrich your bright child’s development that can strike a happy medium for the family.

Bright and curious children have a great capacity to absorb the world around them. Just like you would feed any child a nutritious diet, feeding your child rich or stimulating experiences can be a great way to informally support their intellectual development. Below are a few options that parents of gifted preschoolers can consider implementing in their family:

  • Play games that involve counting and problem solving to teach logic and strategy as well as build number sense, such as dominos, checkers, and chess.
  • Share big-picture concepts early on as many gifted children can grasp abstract ideas early rather than needing to work through linear steps. Examples might include natural cycles, the concept of infinity, the solar system, democracy, and so on.
  • Explore the natural world and the outdoors. Even the local park or an apartment balcony flower bed can serve as a learning tool or place of discovery for the young.
  • Attend as many as exhibits as are available in your area, whether they are arts, science, music, archeology, geology, or aquariums. Museum staff or community center volunteers are great sources of free additional information if your child is already speaking and has many questions.
  • Allow your child to take apart old devices that are otherwise gathering dust like an old computer monitor to see if they have an interest in tinkering, mechanics, building, puzzles, or engineering.
  • Keep many different kinds of books on your shelves or take frequent trips to the library. Talk to your child about what they are reading and what you have been reading even if it is a magazine article, email, or letter. While many gifted children struggle to write initially, these kinds of conservations can help them learn to express their opinions, which is really what is at the heart of writing in the long run!

Of course, there are also formal ways parents can consider supporting their gifted preschooler as well. The Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) assessment may help provide gifted identification and recommendations and is suitable for children ages 2:6 – 7:7. Parents may also look into early entrance into Kindergarten programs or other forms of acceleration, such as through a Montessori school. Lastly, parents may also seek out specific curriculum or gifted parenting books for additional insights into the development of their bright child. A few of our favorite gifted parenting books can be found in our blog article “Gifted 101: Our favorite gifted parenting books.

We hope to see you and your gifted preschooler at one of our many Davidson programs in the near future!

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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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