Normal or Advanced Development
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My daughter, who will be two in the next week, learned sign
language at a very early age. It was a great form of
communication and really helped bridge the gap before verbal
development. My question is this; do any of you feel that it
makes a child brighter? Everyone swears that her earlier
communication has catapulted her ahead of her time.
At 23 months, she knows all shapes and will hand you the
correct one when you ask for any of the following: octagon,
pentagon, diamond/rhombus, oval/ellipse, square, triangle,
rectangle, star, heart and circle. She sings her ABC's from
A-Z without missing a beat. She recognizes letters and
points to words, saying "ABC's Mommy!!" She knows letters
make words. She knows the basic primary and secondary colors
by site and will sort them into color categories. She speaks
in 5-6 word sentences and everyone comments on the clarity
of her speech. She is VERY animated! She loves to sing and
dance (both being her favorite things beside books). Her
teachers say she is an adult in a very tiny body.
I want her to have a good start in school, when that time
comes, but I do not want her to be bored either. If she is a
bright child, I want to know in order to plan for her as
Do you believe this is normal development or should I
prepare for parenting a bright and gifted child?
A: It is interesting that she
has learnt sign language at a very early age. Though,
usually the very young develop the understanding of language
and motor skills much faster than their ability to speak.
It is hard to determine if your girl is gifted at this
point, and she is certainly too young for tests. She is very
bright; children at this age are like sponges, they absorb a
lot and sound nurturing and guide from caregivers is
certainly a plus point. Instead of preparing for parenting
if she is gifted, parents should always prepare for
parenting regardless of their children's abilities.
For a bright child, you need to continue to nurture her
abilities. The best way is to observe what her interests are
and just use that a lead. For example, if you notice that
she enjoys singing and dancing, supply her with various
videos or CDs for her to listen and watch. Go a step further
and do a video recording of her singing and dancing -
children love watching themselves. When she is a little
older, you may want to help her create her own song and
music or even a dance step that the whole family can
imitate. Here you are teaching the child to be creative and
she may well use this in other activities. A bright child
will quickly discover that exploring can result in other
exciting activities and may soon learn to be very creative.
Having said that, activities should not be restricted to
only what they enjoy but do also introduce new activities.
The idea is not to force them to do something they may
appear not to enjoy but to just introduce them to a variety
of activities that they can use. If she may not appear to
enjoy book as much, you may want to introduce the library to
her, or have a small spot at home within her play area for
reading. Decorate it as such that she would want to be in
the area. Even if she still does not enjoy books, subtle
exposure would surely help build interest over time.
At this stage, free play is of crucial importance. If too
much rigidity and guide is enforced, a bright child may just
burn out after a while. By having a variety of activities
and exposure, even if school does not offer what parents may
feel is beneficial for the child's development, the child
would be able to make things work for her/him. Early
exposure and fee play produces a creative child who is able
to fit in most environments.
So my advice, do not plan too much, let nature take its
course with some guidance and effort on your side. Remember,
there must be a balance between guiding and free play - too
much of each may not help the child, so you really need to
find a good balance here so as to stimulate and challenge
your child. Good luck!