Nurturing a Potentially Gifted Toddler
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My wife and I have a 22 month old daughter (our first). We
think she is maybe a little brighter than normal but
everyone we meet states that they are amazed at the things
she does and says. Is she considered gifted? Should we have
her tested? Here are a few things I have observed about her:
She knows all of her colors and can point to
multi-colored pictures and point out specific colors.
She knows her alphabet- We have magnetic letters totally
in random order on our bedroom door, we can ask her to bring
a letter i.e. "where is the B". She will look at all the
letters, bring us the correct one and say, "This is a B, the
B says buh" She knows all of her letters and the phonetic
sounds that they make (she rarely if ever makes the wrong
phonetic sound). She frequently points out specific letters
when she sees them in magazines, books on TV etc. and
identifies them. She has recently begun saying i.e.
"D, D says Duh, Duh Duh, Dada" and "B, B says Buh, Buh buh,
Bailey (her name) "K for Kevin (her uncle) etc.
She sings complete songs, not just baby songs but songs
that my wife and I listen to.
She can identify 20-30 different musical instruments by
sight. She loves to point them out, violin, bugle, flute,
trumpet, recorder, clarinet etc. She can also identify some
of them by sound. I recently was riding in the car with her
and she repeatedly said "piano" I took me a while to realize
that there was a piano playing in the song on the radio. She
also loves to play the piano at my parents house. She will
not just bang on the piano to make noise, but will carefully
play different notes and sometimes repeat 3-5 specific notes
in order over and over.
She is making long sentences correctly. Her speech is
amazingly clear and is easy to understand even by strangers.
Example- I carried her outside the other day and out of the
blue she said, " I hear the birds but I can't see them,
where are they?" Keep in mind she is only 22 months old.
She can identify many shapes and loves to color. She will
sit for an hour drawing quietly by herself. If I ask her to
draw a triangle she will make two straight sides but seems
to have difficulty with the third. Ask her to draw a circle
and she will start making circular drawings on the page.
Her memory is excellent, My wife checked out a children’s
book for her at the library and read it to her once. She
closed the book and said "no". Over a week later, she asked
my wife to read the "no, no Jack, bring it back" book. That
was a line in the book that she had heard only once over a
week earlier. She will remember peoples names that she has
met just one or two times. She said " Hi Paul" to an
amusement park ride operator that she had introduced herself
to three weeks earlier. (She loves to walk up to people,
stick out her hand like she wants to shake their hand and
say, "hello, it's nice to meet you." )
She has a fascination with books and will frequently
climb into a chair with a book and slowly turn the pages one
at a time and stare at them. If it is a book that we read
frequently she will say many of the correct lines from that
particular page. She will sit for over an hour doing this.
She loves numbers and she can count to 20 in order, 30
with help and has recently been holding up fingers as she
counts. She will count to 5 on her hand then count backwards
from 5 to 1.
She will repeat ANYTHING that we say if we ask her to. I
can count to ten in German or Spanish and she will repeat
each number as I say them. I try to trip her up with long
words such as hippopotamus but she will repeat the word
until she gets it right.
She knows dozens and dozens of different animals by
sight and can make the correct sound that each animal makes.
I am sorry this is so long, there are just so many things
she does that impress us. Physically she is very small for
her age, she is 18 pounds at 22 months. She was 4 lbs. 7 oz.
19 inches long at birth and was 3 pounds 7 oz. when we
brought her home from the hospital (She had dropped to 3
lbs. 1 oz.) She eats very little and sleeps even less.
Although even with very little sleep she never acts "grumpy"
in the mornings.
These are just a few things I can think of. Is she normal?
Should we have her tested? Is there even a test for a child
under 2 years old? What do we do if she is gifted? I don't
want to push her and make her the oddball at school when she
A: Your girl does show distinct
characteristics of early giftedness and has definitely
reached milestones far ahead of her peers. For now it really
is not important to determine if she were gifted or not;
what is important is that she shows very high potential and
would need to be further guided to determine and gradually
develop her gifts to the maximum.
She must be around two-plus now and probably has reached
greater developmental heights. My advice is to continue
nurturing her as best as you can. For this, you need to be
aware of her needs as she grows which may be different from
her age group. She will surely develop faster and each of
her ability would need attention and nurturance.
It is very important to carefully observe her likes and
dislikes. If you find that she enjoys books very much, she
should be exposed to them. Bear in mind that for advanced
children, mere exposure may burn them out quite quickly.
They need guidance and lots of variety in their interest
areas. Apart from providing her with books, look for
different activities that involves reading in a variety of
environment. For example, take her to the library, read the
newspaper with her (by showing headlines, pictures or ads),
reading her books, reading related games, etc.
You may do the same with her other interests. Variety is the
key here as gifted children tend to absorb too quickly and
eventually may get bored with the same activity, even if
they had once enjoyed it very much. If you find that she may
not display abilities (or shows difficulties) in a certain
area or perhaps dislikes certain subject matter especially
if it is important (e.g. numbers, writing, drawing, etc) you
may want to slow down a little there and look for ways to
excite her using various approaches and activities to instil
It is not going to b an easy task for parents and a lot of
energy and patience is required. Try reading up as much as
you can on gifted toddlers (there is a lot of information
from internet resources), hook up with parents of other
highly able children (join gifted association in your area),
subscribe to gifted newsletters to keep track of the latest
on giftedness, etc.
If you feel that testing her would help your further improve
on her strengths and work on her weak areas, there are
various tests that can be performed by a qualified
educational/child psychologist to determine her level of
abilities. For her age, there are individualized tests that
can be conducted but many factors may influence the results.
Tests are more reliable and objective when children are a
little older, from 4 years onwards.
On her physical development, it would be a good idea to
consult a pediatrician for advice based on normal physical
development. Here’s wishing you all the best in your journey
of parenting a potentially gifted child.