Stimulation for Gifted Children
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
I'm turning to you as I have not yet found an appropriate
website to have my questions answered. I am a mother of a
very bright boy who is now 4.5, and we're living in Sweden.
He is very curious boy and also very advanced in his
development compared to other children of his age.
My son has always been interested in numbers, patterns,
letters and more. By the age of 2 he could count to twenty
in both Swedish and English, build 80-pieces puzzles, knew
the whole alphabet, shapes and colors.
By the time he was 3.5 he taught himself how to read and by
the time he turned four he could read fluently from any kind
of book. He has also taught himself to write, and when other
children bring home drawings from daycare he brings home
He goes to a public daycare (age 1 - 6), which he does
enjoy, but I can notice that he is getting more and more
bored and frustrated.
Of course he loves to play with his friends inside and
outside, but he demands so much more. He can sit for hours
playing advanced games, such as Chinese checkers, but none
of his friends can handle these more advanced games. He also
loves all kinds of activity books, such as reading or
writing activity books.
Where we live in Sweden we only have public schools from the
age of 6, with no alternatives such as Montessori, or
advanced classes for brighter students.
I once asked his pediatrician on how to deal with his rapid
development and received the reply that I should try to hold
him back a little so he would be around the same level as
other children once he starts school.
What is your advice? Should I try to keep him stimulated
when at home? Should I put him in school one year ahead? Do
you have some ideas on good activities for his age?
Feeling both confused and disappointed as there is no
information or good activities for my son where we currently
A: It is indeed unfortunate
that there is very little support for parents of highly able
children in Sweden.
I feel very upset hearing your pediatrician's suggestion to
hold back your son's rapid development. I really hope you
have not held him back in any way as that would be the worst
thing anyone could do to early giftedness. Your boy appears
to be very advanced and I wouldn't be surprised that he has
started showing signs of boredom and frustration at his
present daycare environment. He is showing signs of less
excitement and enjoyment in learning.
Since there is no provision for a more advanced learning
facility in Sweden, you may have to work very hard to help
him maintain his interest and enjoyment in learning.
Firstly, you may need to get some help from his school or
the daycare centre (if he is still there). Speak to one of
his teachers (who appears supportive and one whom he likes)
to keep observing him and giving him more challenging work.
Secondly, at home, you must keep him stimulated most of the
time. Look for learning materials that appear interesting
and challenging to him. Give him projects to accomplish,
e.g., when he has read a book, get him to write a review of,
say, what he thought of the book and how he would improve
it. Have a lot of outdoor activities; introduce him to the
world of insects, plants, etc. Children usually get
fascinated with such things so you can also get him to
relate his experiences to his friends – it's two-way so
chances are that his friends will be engaged as well and his
social skills improves with increased mingling.
Thirdly, find out if there are other parents who may be
facing a similar situation. You may want to place an ad at
his daycare. You can team up with parents and meet on a
monthly basis to discuss issues in raising a highly able
child. Nothing can be more effective than support from other
parents as personal experience is the best teacher. In fact,
if there are enough parents, you may want to start an
association and eventually become the first association for
the gifted in Sweden!
Last but not least, keep yourself updated with the latest
information on gifted education on the web. You may want
join in as member and subscribe to newsletters from national
associations for the gifted for a small fee. This would also
enable you to hook up with other parents from different
As for grade skipping, it really depends on a number of
factors; his socio-emotional maturity, whether enrichment is
offered in his present grade, his feelings about skipping
grades (especially if this practice is not normally done).
If he is ready for more challenging and advanced work, and
his present learning is not stimulating him enough, he
should not be held behind.
You may also want to talk to him about his gifts. Explain to
him that not everyone has such gifts, which is why some of
his friends may not be able to understand him or enjoy what
he enjoys. This is going to be a tough journey for both your
son and you, but I assure you that it will be well worth it.
All the best!