How old does a child have to be before he or she exhibits characteristics of giftedness? Many parents and teachers believe that a child is gifted when school tests say they are, and these tests aren't given until third or fourth grade, if at all. The truth is that gifted traits show up in toddlers. In fact, some of them can be seen even in infants!
Browse through the following lists and see how many characteristics apply to your young child. Keep in mind that to be gifted a child need not have every one of these characteristics.
Traits in Young Children:
- As infants, may get fussy if facing one direction for too long
- As infants, appear alert
- Need less sleep, even as infants
- Frequently reach 'milestones' such as walking and first speech earlier than average
- May speak late, but then speak in complete sentences
- Strong desire to explore, investigate, and master the environment (opens up cabinets, takes things apart)
- Toys and games mastered early, then discarded
- Very active (but activity with a purpose, not to be confused with ADHD)
- Can distinguish between reality and fantasy (questions about Santa or the tooth fairy come very early!)
Highly gifted toddlers may also show an intense interest in numbers or letters. These are often the children who start doing simple math or teach themselves to read by the time they are three. However, a child who does not read or do math early may still be gifted. Children who read or do math early are almost certainly gifted, but not all gifted children do those things early.
Studies of gifted infants (those who score high on IQ tests as grade school children) show that they have a low tolerance for the familiar and a preference for novelty. Basically, infants were shown different objects for a certain amount of time. Those infants who later were shown to be gifted children looked away from objects more quickly than other infants. When shown a familiar object and a new one, the gifted infants preferred to look at the new one.
This is interesting since it supports the idea that gifted children need new information to learn, that they get bored with the same old information day after day. Their frustration at having to learn and "relearn" the same information is due to this apparently inborn need for novelty and not to their being spoiled, as many people imply (or state outright!)