The term comes from the verb "hothousing," which researchers coined to refer to parents' attempts to create a "superbaby," in other words, a genius.
These parents provide every type of enrichment they can for their child, beginning in infancy. They play classical music for their infants, and may even use flashcards to prepare their infant for reading and math. When their children become toddlers, the real lessons on reading and math begin, using either flashcards or other methods of instruction.
They also provide piano or violin lessons for their children, often starting when the children are three or four and make every effort to get their children into the "best" preschools, which they believe are the ones that emphasize academics.
Hothouse children are often overscheduled in activities their parents believe are essential to their children's success in life.
The two keys terms in this definition are "push" and "cognitive age." Gifted children are not generally hothouse children even though they are learning material more quickly and earlier than most children their age. However, the learning is child-centered, which means the desire to learn comes from the child, not the parent.
Gifted children can also be hothouse children if and when their parents are the ones initiating - and insisting on - the early learning.