Parents, teachers, and society in general believes a child is intellectually gifted when a standardized assessment says that they are. But those standard assessments often come when children are close to school age. Are we missing an opportunity to provide additional stimulation to gifted children earlier? We know that that critical window for child development is before the age of five. So it might be helpful to identify giftedness earlier so we can make sure gifted children get adequate stimulation to meet their needs.
Many parents wonder at some point if their baby or toddler could be gifted. This can be a difficult question to answer because every child develops at a different rate with varying skills and abilities.
Is Your Baby Gifted?
Several researchers have studied gifted babies and toddlers and they have found some predictive characteristics of gifted children. Just because your child demonstrates some of the common gifted characteristics does not necessarily mean they will be identified as gifted. On the other hand, children can be identified as gifted even if they do not have all of the characteristics. The following are some common signs of gifted babies and toddlers:
- A heightened level of alertness
- Need for constant stimulation while awake and alert
- Less need for sleep than typically recommended
- Greater speech ability; able to mimic sounds earlier than typical
- Greater sensitivity to sounds, smells, texture, and tastes
- Strong reaction to unpleasant sensations; gifted children are often hypersensitive
- Excess energy and in constant motion
- May speak late but speak in complete sentences when they do start speaking
- Reach physical milestones (such as crawling) earlier than average
Gifted children may not have all these traits, but they will likely have more than two.
Gifted Babies Need Greater Stimulation
Babies and toddlers who are gifted typically also have a need for greater stimulation. When gifted babies are not constantly provided with something interesting and novel to see, listen to, or touch, they may become bored and fussy. Some studies have found that gifted babies and toddlers typically become bored with familiar things faster, craving new and different stimulation. If you find that your baby is no longer calmed by the same song that used to calm her and you have to play a new and unfamiliar song to make her happy, this is a sign that she craves novelty. You may also see this if your child becomes disinterested in new toys quickly. This can be a sign that your child is gifted because she is craving new and interesting stimulation.
I Think My Baby is Gifted. Now What?
So, what should you do if you suspect that your child is gifted? You really don’t need to change anything. You should continue to provide your child with the same enriching environment of experiences to challenge all of their senses. Continue to talk to your child. Ask questions. Read to him. Sing to him. Encourage him to talk back to you. There is no need to do anything differently because it is important that all children get a rich variety of experiences.
It might be helpful to know that these characteristics are signs of giftedness and intelligence so you can react without frustration. It may be challenging to keep finding new and interesting stimulation for your child. But knowing they are craving interesting enrichment versus just being irritable can help you understand how to support them.
Also, it is important to remember that the way we interact with children can build their intelligence. Some studies show that the type of questions we ask children can challenge them and make them smarter. Think about how you interact with your child. How can you make it more interesting to add to his vocabulary and critical thinking? All children need positive and interesting interactions with mom and dad. It helps to build their vocabulary, academic skills, and social skills.
Your Child Doesn’t Have to Be “Gifted” to Have a Gift
We all think our children are gifted at some point, and it is also important to remember that every child has their own gifts to share even if they are not identified as intellectually gifted. Help your child find their gifts and support them so their gift can flourish. Maybe they are extraordinarily kind, good at basketball, a great singer, dancer, or piano player. Maybe they are amazing with animals or especially great at telling stories. Help your child find their particular gift or passion and encourage them to cultivate it.