Little Genius: Recognizing the Gifted Preschooler

Certain behaviors and characteristics that experts say are indicators of giftedness.
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Your toddler asks questions — lots of them. All preschool children are inquisitive, but you suspect she might be different — maybe gifted. You could be right. Even very young children can show signs of precocity.

As a parent, you will probably be the first to spot it. You observe your child daily and understand how she thinks, processes information and views the world. You are truly the best judge of your preschooler’s abilities.

Experts look for certain behaviors and characteristics as indicators of giftedness. These are listed below, but keep in mind this is not an all-inclusive, definitive list.

Signs of a Gifted Child

Early verbal skills.
He or she talks earlier, uses expressive language, ask lots of questions to gain knowledge and has a large vocabulary.

Early motor skills.
He or she turns his head, sits up early as an infant, crawls or walks at a younger age.

Intense interest in numbers and puzzles.
He or she puts together a 20-piece puzzle at age 3 or has interest in telling time and how it affects day-to-day activities.

Emotional sensitivity.
He or she is empathetic to others and their feelings, and starts to observe differences with others who are the same chronological age.

Long attention span.
He or she maintains a longer attention span, even as an infant.

Comfortable conversing with older children or adults.
He or she finds it easier to talk to older children or adults due to early verbal and communication skills.

Asynchronous development.
This refers to the unequal development of intellectual, motor and emotional skills in children. A gifted 3-year-old might have basic reading skills common for a 6-year-old but still throw tantrums. Developmentally, basic reading is not common for the average 3-year-old, but throwing tantrums is within the range of developmentally appropriate behaviors.

How to Respond
Every child is different. One gifted preschooler might exhibit multiple characteristics and behaviors, while another displays just one or two. If you see some of these signs in your child, consider responding in some way. Whether you invest in psycho-educational testing, enroll your child in advanced academic programs on a trial basis, or simply seek out other parents of gifted preschoolers with whom you can exchange information, you’ll start to gain new perspectives and feel more positive about how your child fits into the world.

It can be isolating for parents who suspect their child might be gifted because they feel they can no longer share "mommy stories" with other parents. Many parents feel that this comes across as bragging, exaggerating or outright lying to say their 4-year-old just read a chapter book. Many choose to stop talking about their gifted child altogether.

Although parenting gifted preschoolers provides challenges and difficulties that vary from more typical parenting frustrations, searching for resources or a support group is the best way to understand your gifted preschool child. Contrary to belief, being gifted is not easy but with the right perspective and support, it can be a positive and rewarding experience for you, your child and your family.

Lissy Wood is an educator with more than 14 years of experience. She has studied the needs of gifted students and is founder of Wake Gifted Academy.