A Gifted Toddler
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My son Marcus is now 2 years and 3 months old and is the only child we
We were watching a program about the solar system yesterday, and he
wakes up this morning to name me all the planets in the solar system,
starting from sun, Mercury then all the way to Neptune. He even quizzed
me the order of the planets, and hinted me the answer by describing the
Earth as "blue and white, and has moon"; Jupiter as "biggest" and told
me the two which have rings are Saturn and Uranus.
Marcus' good memory first caught my attention when he was 17-month-old.
He was looking out the window one day, describing the colours and the
types of vehicles going pass. He was saying "silver car, blue truck,
white ambulance, yellow tractor on blue truck, taxi, black motorcycle,
blue bicycle, naughty, no helmet, silver car again!". And I was thinking
that's interesting. It will need a certain degree of concentration even
for me to do so. I then tested him and found out that he somehow
recognised 13 colours, and more than 10 different types of vehicle.
At 18 month old, I bought him the alphabet chart. He learnt all the
alphabets (both capital and small letters) within days. He also
recognises shapes including semi-circle, trapezium, pentagon, hexagon,
pyramid, cylinder and sphere. When we lie down for a nap, he enjoyed
pointing out and naming different body parts on me. He was able to name
30 different parts then.
At 20 month old, he learned his phonic and he enjoyed singing the phonic
song "A ei-ei apple all the way to Z zed-zed zoo". Every now and then he
would change the items in the song, such as "apple to ant or ambulance,
ball to bat, cat to cow". He was able to sing more than 30 different
songs/nursery rhymes, and he told me that the ABC song and "Twinkle
Twinkle Little Star" song sound the same (in rhythm). He can
differentiate and describe top/bottom, up/down, near/far, bright/dark,
light/heavy, in/out, big/small, and hard/soft. He recognises all the
animals in his "first 100 animals" books and describes zebra as stripy,
porcupine as spiky, flamingo as pink, giraffe with long neck, elephant
with long trunk, reindeer with antlers, chameleon changes colour etc. He
also recognises the native Australian animals such as wombats, platypus,
He knew the days of the week, and months of the year.
When he was 22-month-old, we would spend more than an hour in the fruit
and veg section while doing our grocery shopping as he wanted to name
the fruits and vegetables he knows. He was able to recognise more than
50 of them.
Now, he can spell simple words like his name, fish, pig, apple, cow and
is self-learning more words every day from books or kids program. He
enjoys typing all the words he knows on the computer. He can count to
100 and backwards from 10 to 1. If you write him a 3-digit number, he
will tell you what it is. He can speak in sentences and will describe
his experiences in playground or park when he comes home, such as seeing
a duck family of 7 with mummy-duck, daddy-duck and 5 ducklings in the
park; the swan's beak is different colour from the seagull's; the new
playground has slides of different colour from the one he usually goes
He also enjoy playing pretend games such as having a marching band
with him as the leader holding a chopstick as his baton, and his soft
toys all lining up, each playing different musical instruments. When
asked to name the instruments, he will tell you there are piano, drums,
cymbals, trumpet, violin, accordion, saxophone, guitar and ukulele, and
that ukulele is smaller than guitar, and only have 4 strings instead of
Marcus seems to enjoy learning things which are in order, and shows good
capability to remember things. He also seems to have very long attention
span that he can sometimes spend more than hours reading his books or
watching his Wiggles' DVD when he wants to. He has managed to learn how
to turn on the DVD, change it when he finished with the previous one.
Marcus is our only child, and we honestly don't have much experience or
knowledge with child development. Please give us your best advice.
Should I take him to an assessment? He shows a strong desire to learn
new things. Do you think sending him to a Montessori school when he
turns 4 a good idea?
From your description, Marcus certainly has advanced really fast
developmentally. It is amazing that he is doing what you described at
this age and I am glad that you have been aware about it and have
allowed his growth rather naturally. You have a potentially gifted child
in the making and it is going to be a wonderful journey!
Firstly, you would need to equip yourself with the understanding of
giftedness and how to help him further maximise his cognitive
development. Most sites recommend great activities that you may use; but
don't forget the play element in these activities especially for
toddlers. Being young, it is hard to predict what they may sustain
interest in, therefore, it is crucial to expose them to a variety of
activities and gauge their interest levels.
Parents often assume that more “academically inclined” activities such
as Math or word games may suit them better but it is equally important
to try to expose other activities such as gardening, cooking, nature
walks, etc. For example, a variation to learning Math can be done when
introducing a child to baking. You can introduce first mathematical
concepts such as half, quarter, etc. using measuring cups; depending on
the level of the child. This would be a variation to the sit and do task
and would certainly stimulate a gifted child's mind. Furthermore, it
would also enhance other skills that involve many other details which
develop the child's brain.
It is also a good time to introduce Marcus to the world of books now.
Make reading as creative as you can - have a reading corner, in fact get
him to help you make a reading corner and arrange books. Apart from
reading him stories, get him to tell you stories or read an incomplete
story and get him to complete it in his own way. Remember, this is a
creativity activity and there is no right or wrong - everything is
possible in the story.
Toddlers are also very fascinated with music so you may also want to
stimulate him with musical activities. Expose different kind of music
and musical instruments. I am sure you have been doing this - continue
as teaching a young child about sound and music would stimulate the
young brain as it is still at a developing stage.
Make sure that the activities are varied, meaningful and stimulating. At
this age, he has an overwhelming to learn new thing things and
experience new activities. Hands-on activities and exploring is the best
for him at this stage.
As for school, perhaps this is a good time to send him to playschool to
introduce him to his peers and social skills before he joins nursery.
Any school that has an ability based programme would suit him the best.
Speak to the principal and explain his advances and that he may need
Some helpful websites that you may want to check are:
http://thekidstory.com/websites-for-gifted-children/ (this site is excellent!)
Hope the above helps - wishing you all the best!.