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Gifted Characteristics in Young Children

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: I understand that all parents think their kids are smart. But I was wondering if there is any way to tell if my five-year-old son is gifted. He understands difficult concepts, he is excellent at problem solving, and already has a very off the wall sense of humor. Also, he is learning things now that I didn't expect him to learn until first grade or higher. I don't even have to push him at all. If he is gifted, should I be teaching him differently?

A: Parents are unusually good at recognizing that their young children are gifted. Here is a list of the types of behaviors that they typically notice in gifted young children:

  • unusual alertness in infancy
  • required less sleep than other infants
  • able to concentrate for long periods of time
  • a high activity level
  • smiled at, or recognized caretakers early
  • intense reactions to noise, pain, and frustration
  • advanced rapidly through developmental milestones
  • enjoys learning
  • learns new things quickly
  • early and extensive development of language
  • fascination with books
  • very curious
  • frequently asks probing questions
  • a keen observer
  • abstract reasoning and problem solving skills
  • vivid imagination
  • sensitivity and compassion

Parents should not expect a gifted child to be outstanding in all of these characteristics. However, if your young son exhibits a majority of the characteristics, he may well be gifted.

Relax and enjoy your bright young son. There is no need to identify him as gifted until later on in elementary school. Testing him now for giftedness serves no particular purpose. Furthermore, the testing of young children is generally less reliable than for older children.

You will find hundreds of ways to promote your child's creativity and intellectual development in the book Bringing Out the Best published by Free Spirit Press. Also, you might look at some of the materials on how to meet the needs of bright preschool children published by the National Association for Gifted Children.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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