Gifted and Highly Imaginative
By Inderbir Kaur Sandhu, Ph.D
My husband and I wonder if our 5 year old is gifted. She has always had
an imagination that is by far more than just an imaginary friend. She
has had several "friends" at a time from the time she was 2 1/2 if not
before. At the age of 3 she would tell us names that didn't sound
familiar almost foreign and then say they were from various countries
such as India. Then she developed an entire imaginary family but she
would use words like "my imaginary mama or imaginary brother" and so on.
She would tell us detailed and elaborate stories of this family and it
seemed when she would get frustrated by a situation she would just go
into her imaginary family mode. At five she still talk and plays with
her "imaginaries" as she calls them, but now she teaches them.
Last year we began homeschooling our older children (10 yo twins) and
since we needed something to keep her occupied we started her in
kindergarten at the age of 4 year 4 months (April 13th b-day). She
already knew her colors, shapes, numbers to 10 and all of her letters so
we figured K. was the best place to start. Coloring completely bored
her, and on days we would start new task such as addition, subtraction
and time, she seemed not attentive and very distracted. I figured that
she was not interested and not paying attention but then the next day I
would give her a practice page and she would do the work without any
hesitation and without any questions. It was like she mastered things so
quickly that it bored her. I actually was looking for things that might
stump her so I could actually teach her but everything I came up with
she mastered and moved on.
We have just started her 1st grade year. She remembers everything that
we go over. She can tell you who sewed the 1st flag and what things
stand for on the flag. She asked me how to spell doctor the other day
and I was busy with my other girls. I asked her to wait just a moment, a
minute later she was saying look mom Doctor Olivia. She had drawn the
picture and sounded the word out herself. Her only mistake was she had
spelled it doctor.
She has a love for music, a long attention span, can carry on a
conversation with adults even adults she does not know, a very large
vocabulary and masters things and becomes bored with it.
Here is my question. Should I have her tested so that I can gear her
schoolwork around her abilities. As with most curriculums, her year this
year has started with review. She is totally bored with it. Should I
move on and just skip repetitive learning? I don't want to hinder her or
not push her to her full ability. Any advice?? Also she still has her
imaginary family (been around for several years now), is there a time
that I should become worried with her huge imagination of these people
in her life.
Your daughter clearly demonstrates distinct qualities of gifted
children, that too in the higher range. It is excellent that you have
noticed her gifts and are working towards nurturing them.
A little bit on imaginary friends. This is indeed a positive part of
growing up for any child. It is a sign of vivid imagination and
especially for gifted children; they may have more than one imaginary
friend with rather complicated roles compared to their non gifted
counterparts (due to their ability to construct higher level thinking).
Research over the years describe having imaginary friends as a normal
part for children to deal with issues in her/his way and also to work on
any fears and insecurities, which is a good coping skill. Studies also
describe a child's need to create an imaginary companion as a desire to
achieve competence and mastery. For example, an imagery friend that is
more competent than the child represents the desire of the child to be
competent (this is done by emulating the imaginary friend) and vice
It is best for parents to allow children to keep imaginary friends for
as long as they need - these "friends" usually vanish gradually when
they have real friends especially during the mid-primary years (usually
about 10 years, if not earlier). However, parents need to be cautious
that interaction with the imaginary friend does not take over
interaction with real people. This means, if your child has an exclusive
relationship with an imaginary friend and does not have friends in
reality, avoids real people interaction, or if your child tells you that
her friend tells her to do things that she does not want to do, this
needs to be taken seriously. This warrants for a discussion this with a
pediatrician or a child therapist.
Testing would be a good idea if you want to determine her areas of
strengths and weaknesses so as to help her further develop her abilities
and work on her weaker areas. Find out if the school has any provision
for children with higher abilities. Otherwise, she would keep getting
bored at school and it may affect her schooling in the future.
Repetitive learning can be very boring for a bright mind and she will
switch off in no time. If the school is not able to help her develop her
abilities, you ay want to look for another school that does.
Alternatively, if there are not schools available in your area to cater
for her needs, you may want to consider homeschooling her since you are
already homeschooling your twins. Here's wishing you all the best!