Above Average Development Toddler
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
Q: I'm a mother of a 17 month old girl.
I've been reading about the characteristics and behaviors of gifted children. My daughter was
recently introduced to raisin bread. Although she enjoys it, she is
focused on picking the raisins out of the bread. If she can't get it out
with her fingers, she will eat around the raisins to get at them. I
remember watching a program some years ago where a toddler was focused
on picking the raisins out of a cookie and this was a sign of a highly
intelligent child. Not sure if there's any truth to this. Some other characteristics:
My daughter has been watching programs since the age of 3-4 months. She
will sit through two episodes of her favorite cartoon back to back.
I also believe she is very observant, since infancy. Many people, even
strangers would often comment on how observant she is.
She has a long attention span.
She likes to flip through books.
She enjoys being on her own and playing with her toys at long lengths
of time but also loves interaction with other children. I have even seen
her attempt to console other children when they are upset.
Drawn to music; even though she maybe focused on some kind of activity,
the moment she hears music on TV, she will re-direct her attention
likes to explore
Not sure if any of this means anything but perhaps you can shed some
light on the subject.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
From your description, it does sound like your little one is
accelerating at a faster pace than her peers. On picking the raisins
from the bread - this actually indicates ability to focus and stay
focussed which is perseverance; an ability distinct to gifted
individuals. And it is great that you are aware of what is happening at
an early stage.
In general, today, it is much harder to determine giftedness since many
children are exposed to various activities by parents; these activities
actually make them learn faster due to mere exposure regardless of
ability. Children are like sponges; they absorb learning quite rapidly,
and enthusiastic parents certainly help in their development. For
example, a gifted toddler may learn to read at three, and so will a
bright toddler. The earlier one reads, the faster learning will take
place. However, a gifted child would need much more stimulation and any
learning activity needs to match their intellectual capabilities. If
s/he does not, the child would lose interest in learning and may become
disillusioned and probably disruptive. On the other hand, a bright child
would do well in most learning environments and would usually be
toppers. They adapt to learning quite easily and are viewed as "good,
obedient children". Naturally, a bright child is easier to nurture
compared to a gifted child.
A good start in nurturing her potential would be to encourage her to
follow her interests at this point. In case you find that she is
fascinated with something, do more of it and gradually increase its
complexity. She appears to enjoy books, so you may start with activities
that includes reading, story telling, looking at pictures, etc. Have
different types of reading materials in terms of texture - magazines,
newspapers, books with hard/soft covers, fabric types and so on. Gifted
children are sensitive to texture and this would enhance their sense of
touch. Having said that, more work of the same kind may sometimes bore
above average children, so it is always important to try to have
variations of the same activity. This involves creativity on your side.
You must also know when to stop - a good cue is to observe when she
starts to lose interest (irritable, distracted). If this happens, drop
the activity and allow her some free play time. It is good to hear that
she is playing with age appropriate toys. Pretend play is crucial and
this is when they develop their brain and unleash their creativity.
Ensure that she remains challenged all the time so as not to have any
time to be idle (which may cause laziness in future). The following are
a few tips that you can use at this stage and later to encourage her
Help her determine differences; compare and contrast things/people:
Use measurement words often: little, more, many, half, quarter, etc.
as an introduction to early math.
Instead of reading stories from books all the time, create your own
and try to get her to contribute.
You can also watch educational programs with her and ask her the
“whys” and “whats” - and then explain.
Look for similarities and differences and have her group things that
Create a scenario and ask her about what could happen in certain
You may also want to look out for play schools which may be a great
environment for her to also develop her initial social skills - she does
appear to be interested in interaction. However, there is a possibility
of her being viewed as bossy at some point in the later stages of
development - but it may be a leadership quality that she could be
Hope the tips are helpful and have a great learning journey with your
little one. Keep monitoring her progress and encourage her to learn
positively. All the best!