Gifted and talented very young children

Every parent thinks their child is special, and they're right. From an education perspective, children who are gifted or talented have exceptional ability in one or more areas. This may be obvious now, or may emerge as your child gets a bit older.

"What is air?"   "How high does it go?"   "Why doesn’t it all float away?"  Listening to questions and working out what really interests your very young child can lead to discovering some very special talents.

'Gifted and talented' is a term used to describe a wide range of exceptional abilities that children may display from a very young age. Giftedness and talent mean different things to different communities and cultures in New Zealand and children with special gifts or talents can be found in any family, culture, ethnicity, or socioeconomic group.

Is my child gifted or talented?

Signs of giftedness in your young child could include:

  • an early interest in their surroundings
  • super-sensitivity to stimuli
  • extremely good observation skills
  • an extensive vocabulary
  • an exceptional memory
  • talking early and fluently
  • the ability to read early – often self-taught
  • concentrating for long periods
  • asking unusual or shrewd questions
  • grasping ideas quickly
  • being very inquisitive
  • a ‘quirky’ or keen sense of humour
  • requiring very little sleep.

What can I do to support my child?

If you think your child may have a special ability then you will find it easier if you have good support. This can come from friends, family, whānau, your early learning service if your child goes to one, and from gifted and talented groups.

At home

A young gifted child’s behaviour can be very demanding, wearying and even disruptive at times. Some gifted children need less sleep than other children and that can be stressful. Accepting your child’s giftedness and staying positive is essential for the happiness and development of your child and ultimately good for the family.

To appreciate your young child’s gifts and talents, you could try:

  • being flexible – like all young children, a gifted child may be interested in something one week and interested in something completely different the following week
  • helping your child make friends with children who are their age as well as other ‘like-minded’ children who may be older
  • having a positive attitude toward your child – appreciate their gifts, talents, interests and curiosity
  • providing your child with lots of opportunities to explore and play – this is particularly important in these early years
  • gathering resources – the library, toy library, galas, second-hand book stalls, markets, ‘for sale’ newspaper columns, and various trading websites can all be sources of reasonably priced resources
  • finding places to visit – check out the local newspaper or your early childhood centre for public exhibitions, museums and art galleries, groups for young children with an art, music, cultural, language, or sport focus. Culture and interest clubs provide activities and experiences that can extend your child and help them to develop generally
  • asking for help from your friends, family and whānau - sometimes sharing the load or having some time to yourself can make all the difference
  • having fun – laugh together and simply enjoy their company.

From others

Talk to your early childhood education or kōhanga reo if your child is attending one.  If your child is attending an early childhood service or kōhanga reo, talk to their educators. They will be interested in knowing all about your child's interests and abilities so that they can support them well.

They can also advise you about what to do next and provide contact details of those who can help if more support or information is needed.

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