Almost every parent out there thinks their little one is the most special thing since the invention of the wheel, and of course- they’re all right. It’s like how every dog is the cutest and it’s a crazy coincidence how the owner of said dog just happens to own the extra cutest one. That said, there are more objective ways of measuring talent and intelligence in children while they’re still very young.
Now, these may turn into self-fulfilling prophecies where a child who is told they’re not measuring up, develops issues with schoolwork and education (and hence, doesn’t measure up). So the development and emergence of these traits should be seen as gravy in the life of a healthy, happy kid. It’s amazing if these are characteristics of your kid, and if they aren’t doing these things then that’s okay too.
It’s obviously very exciting to go down a list of special abilities and see your child is ticking off each and every one of them. But you know, keep the information to yourself and don’t use it against their siblings or anything. Just be a good winner for lucking out in the genetics lottery. More importantly, just invest in things to develop their minds.
In the moments that the endless barrage of questions seems to be more of a technique to give you a migraine than anything, close those eyes for a moment (not too long- who knows what mischief the tot will get into), rub the temples and remember this little nugget. Exceptionally intelligent toddlers have an unquenchable curiosity, which is a very nice way to say that when they won’t stop asking “why” and no answer seems enough to end the subject. Maybe someday they’ll be a doctor. Gifted toddlers aren’t satisfied with knowing what something is, they want to know how it got to be that.
It’s an annoying thing now, but it could pay off when it’s a little bit closer to SAT-testing. Extremely intelligent children also have an impressive memory, which is what’s helping them now and in the future retain information. This could appear in them remembering that last time they ate nuggets, the nuggets were dino shaped and there were more of them and why isn’t it like that this time? But it can also look like remembering the weather on a day you’ve long since forgotten- it’ll be helpful down the road and for now, just buy the dino shaped nuggets if there’s no big price difference.
Vocabulary is a huge tell-tale sign of intelligence and it’s not just when a child starts speaking or how complete their sentences are. Gifted toddlers often possess a more adult understanding of the language, especially in making comparisons between seemingly unlike things and using metaphor to explain what’s in front of them. It only makes sense then that they have a comfortability with figures of speech and idioms that some of their less developed counterparts don’t quite have. And really, who doesn’t love hearing an articulate toddler go on, especially when they use metaphors that they made up and are a totally unique way of looking at something.
While a gifted child may have a wide expanse of interests, when they set to a task or activity they can usually commit in a way that seems surprising and well beyond their age. This might look like taking a whole day to slog through a puzzle, watching multiple episodes of “Planet Earth” (with parental supervision because Mother Nature is just merciless) or that you’ll notice things are a little too quiet… only to discover they’ve finished the book you left them with. Either way, it’s one of those uncannily adult, mature traits in a precocious child that’s very distinguished from what you may expect.
Although a gifted toddler may not seem as hyper and scattered as other children who are running around out in public and they may demonstrate impressive bouts of focus, they’re still often energetic and engaged in their surroundings in a way less developed children aren’t. Situational forces like nutrition and getting enough sleep obviously affect this, so a child with an innate intelligence may not be living up to their full potential if they aren't getting proper nourishment. But given healthy, fresh food, you can see it in their eyes- they’re either watching or participating with everything around them.
Possibly one of the most fun ways to support your gifted toddler is to indulge their imagination. Many children are creative and imaginative, but extremely intelligent children will often come up with their own worlds or invent new creatures and come to you, wanting to tell stories. They may put on shows, make up games or demonstrate this knack in more subtle ways. This trait might even come out in more unfortunate ways that resemble lying, so it’s important to consider a child’s intentions and if they meant to be lying or if they really were just exercising their imagination.
There’s a whole spectrum of reading abilities amongst bright kids, from the stories of infants teaching themselves to read to toddlers who are taking on more advanced books. A good rule of thumb is that if a toddler is reading chapter books (think “Amelia Bedelia” books) then they also possess the vocabulary, attention span and ability to use context clues to figure out new words. All of those are traits of a very, very intelligent little person. It’s especially good to encourage children to look up words they don’t know, so they can guess their meaning and then look them up in a dictionary to further learn.
Between a child's disarming honesty and their growing knowledge of the world, most children are very funny, even if it’s not intentional. And out of the children that really aren’t at all funny, even they will say things that are nonsensical gold. That said, gifted toddlers can be funny in a way that they have control over. This may take the form of literally telling and making up jokes or pointing out the humor in situations. It’s wonderful to have your child grow up into a fun human being to just hang out with, so this is a sign of intelligence many parents cherish.
Highly gifted children are more likely to understand the difference between right and wrong at an early age and possess the need to see that justice enacted in the world. Obviously, the world usually falls short of their expectations but that doesn’t stop them from trying. That kind of visceral feeling and radical empathy has to do with seeing the world from other perspectives than your own, a very mature and advanced skill for such a little one. Thus, advanced children may protect others on the playground or show a passion for animals and environmentalism at an incredibly young age.
The signs of giftedness appear in babies and toddlers in ways that aren’t totally similar to that of adults. Those traits typically develop around twelve months to twenty-four months. So while plenty of intelligent adults love sleeping in, the same isn’t usually true so early in life. For instance, besides being generally animated and engaged, most gifted toddlers are unusually alert and sleep less than other toddlers. It’s a trait that won’t leave their parents feeling their sharpest, but the little ones will catch up on sleep later. For now, they have a whole world to try and understand!
Clare Row, the Australian-based educational and developmental psychologist explains that, “other signs a child is gifted include an ability to learn and retain new ideas very quickly, advanced creative thinking and problem-solving.” That speediness in comprehension also means that young gifted children require less repetition to learn new skills or recognize patterns. All of this efficiency is part of why advanced toddlers have such intense curiosity- they’re learning faster than their counterparts, already have the desire to learn more and understand ideas at a deeper level and really, really love to learn anyway. All of those are the perfect ingredients for a curious kid.
It may seem difficult to suss out what exactly qualifies as a “unique” word from the vantage point of adulthood. A unique word means a word that applies to a subconcept. The toddler is making a distinction that isn’t entirely necessary but is advanced. That could mean understanding the difference between turquoise and teal within the family of shades of blues, or recognizing breeds of dogs as being different from one another. In both cases, using the more vague term (dog or blue) would be totally acceptable for a toddler, but advanced toddlers are seeking out the differences between similar items.
Superbaby’s own developmental expert Niranjan Reddy, PhD explains that an advanced toddlers understanding of patterns goes well beyond colors and shapes. He says that: “Gifted children notice everything, from which bus passes the house after breakfast time to how many bricks can fit inside the toy trunk. They are very good at observing and remembering key information.” Not only will an exceptionally gifted toddler recognize physical patterns, they’re soaking up intangible patterns like those in behavior, activities, and actions. It’s a level of analysis that goes well beyond what they’re able to hold or see that’s already untangling levels of the society around them.
Exceptionally advanced toddlers stand out for their mature focus and determination. CEO and founder of Tutorbright Sunny Verma says, “Gifted children typically have an amazing sense of focus. When given a task, they tend to work on it without distractions until completion. TV, video games, and social media do not divert their attention, allowing them to finish with efficiency.” Puzzles aren’t just colorful and engaging, they also require this incredible focus as well as a curiosity for figuring out the overall pattern of a larger picture as well as the micro-pattern of how pieces fit together. The point is, genius tots just really love puzzles.
In part due to their ability to quickly pick up new skills, advanced toddlers are typically incredibly independent. They may want to dress themselves or handle certain tasks alone. They may be frustrated by the very necessary and appropriate adult help their age requires, so the freedom to make choices within perimeters (such as choosing what pants they’ll wear vs. cooking something alone) is an important outlet for these little ones. This parental choice to provide support is vital since although a toddler may be advanced, they’re not perfect. They may have strengths in reading and language but not be as comfortable with math.
A telltale sign of a pint-sized genius may well be the ability to understand the world from perspectives other than their own. This doesn't mean they'll be less stubborn in arguments- it means they'll be more likely to draw an incredibly well-detailed map, all from a bird’s eye view perspective. It also contributes to their empathy and aforementioned idealistic sense of justice in the world. Their intelligence is great enough that physical and abstract concepts have a kind of symbiotic relationship- not only can they imagine seeing their town from above, they can imagine what it feels like to live life as someone or something else.
The combination of focus, prolonged interest and the need to understand ideas from a unique perspective all contribute to a child having a layered, intense passion for one subject. So if they’ve read all of the books about dinosaurs or dogs from the library at least once, they’re definitely on track. Not only are they infatuated with their dino toy or ecstatic to wear clothes with their favorite on them, but they also have the need to understand these subjects. It’s that ability to not only understand advanced work by others but also offer their thoughts, insights and maybe even constructive criticism that makes a single topic an inexhaustible source of fascination.
On the other hand, an advanced toddler possesses the ability to easily pick up and retain many skills so they also may harbor a broad range of passions. They can love yoga and reading and also animals and the ocean! As they race through milestones and find the subjects and activities they excel at, they may pick up a broader array of interests than the typical toddler. Their surprising attention span and intense focus mean they can stay engaged with projects longer than their peers who will become bored and withdraw. Plus, their vivid imagination helps them keep boredom at bay for even longer and adds entirely new levels to their hobbies.
It’s incredible to imagine a self-taught child that’s so young, but Australian resources for developmental information share stories of exactly that. For instance, “Bella knew the alphabet from around two and learnt to read by herself when she was almost three-years-old. No-one had showed her flash cards or gone out of their way to identify words or sounds, but she sometimes asked what a sign said when she was shopping with her mother, and she loved having books read to her.” It’s these everyday examples of remarkable feats by little ones that are the markers of a heightened intelligence at a very young age.
There's a lot of factors that may make it difficult for advanced toddlers to mingle with same-aged peers. From the advanced vocabulary to the unending thirst to understand concepts at deeper levels, it’s completely natural for a gifted child to seek out a range of ages in their friends. This need may be satisfied by an older sibling, supportive family members or even a trusted and inspiring baby sitter. As a parent, chaperoning these interactions allows a little one an outlet for their conversational and intellectual needs, which may not be met by the company of other toddlers alone.