Think your child might be ‘gifted’? Here are the signs to look out for


It’s something many parents ponder as they observe their little ones sort their toys in unique ways, take their art to great levels, or astound with their gift of the gab: could my child be ‘gifted’?

A gifted child is considered to be one who performs at a higher level than the norm for their age, and these advanced abilities can be obvious from as early as infancy and toddlerhood.

Gifted vs ‘prodigy’

Giftedness is different to a child ‘prodigy’ – around 4,000 kids in Australia are exceptionally gifted and of those, less than hundred can actually be considered real child prodigies. 

“A child prodigy is generally someone who by the age of ten is performing at an adult level, so they may or may not actually be in the gifted range, however they are very talented individuals with their advanced capabilities obvious very early on,” says Gifted Education Consultant, Michele Juratowitch, from Clearing Skies.

“A gifted child on the other hand, may show potential or a natural ability in a particular field such as music, maths or art, however this gradually emerges and the development of those abilities may not happen until later, such as adolescence or adulthood.”

School girl in yellow shirt putting up her hand in the classoom

So, is giftedness as obvious as a child being an early talker or constructing intricate feats of engineering with their Duplo? Well, while there are no definitive hallmarks of giftedness in young kids, psychologists do look for common characteristics when analysing children.

Common attributes of gifted children

1. Achievement of developmental milestones ahead of schedule

It’s common to see early speaking and walking in gifted children, and some milestones are self-taught, such as reading. Gifted kids often have advanced fine motor skills for their age, such as building with materials and completing puzzles.

2. The need for a great deal of mental stimulation

This can often be seen from infancy. Babies can become irritated and difficult when they are in one spot for too long, without adequate stimuli to observe. The end result is a boredom-induced meltdown!

3. A sharp eye for detail

Children who are gifted often notice things and show more interest in the world around them than other kids their age. They often want to know in-depth detail on topics and objects, and ask plenty of questions along the way.

Young toddler looking at tree

4. A preference for new things

Gifted children, even infants, become easily bored with familiar objects. Psychological studies showed that infants (who were later confirmed to be gifted through IQ testing at the age of eight years) showed an obvious preference for new objects than for familiar ones.

5. Advanced language skills

The child may not have been an early talker, but many gifted children display an extensive vocabulary for their age, great ability to reason (and argue!), and feel very comfortable speaking with adults.

6. Outstanding memory

Many gifted children are able to retain information very effectively and have excellent recall. As a result they can master skills quickly, like the alphabet and numbers.

7. Advanced reading skills and a love of books

As a source of information and fuel for imaginations, books are the best friends of many gifted children, and reading is often learnt much earlier than expected. (Like one-year-old Adam who taught himself to use his potty by reading a book on the topic. He was also the youngest ever child to join British Mensa at age two.)

 Cute baby boy holding a pair of glasses, surrounded by books

8. A tendency to go, go go!

Most children under the age of five are like Energizer Bunnies, but in the sense of advanced brain development, gifted children have been seen to be extremely active, investigative and curious.

9. High levels of emotion and sensitivity

Gifted kids have been seen to be extremely empathetic and show a great deal of caring about situations that other children might not show much interest in.

Encouraging your gifted child

“As a parent of a gifted child, you need to provide a very enriched environment and allow them to develop their talent,” says Michele. “There might need to be exposure to instruments or art materials or whatever it is, and they may also require specialised teaching. Some skills may emerge naturally, but to hone that talent there usually needs to be some specialised teaching.”

Some of her other advice for parents:

  • Talent should be aligned with play – Don’t force it. When their ability becomes a duty or requirement, the child is likely to find that very difficult and resist it. So make it fun, allow play to be involved – even if their skill is something strategic like maths or chess.
  • Don’t hold them back – Enable them to learn and progress at their natural level of development and talent. Society is requiring specialisation much earlier, which means that people aren’t being given free range to develop skills in different areas, so natural polymaths (like Leonardo da Vinci) might become restricted.
  • Find your child’s strength – Even if they’re not showing signs of being gifted or a prodigy, tune into their interests and strengths and provide them with opportunities and possibilities so they can really shine to the best of their ability.

And then there’s the raisin test

A university study found that when presented with a raisin, children who could resist taking it for one minute would score higher on tests and have a higher IQ than other children by eight years of age. (I wonder if this would still work with an Easter egg?!)

If you suspect your child might be gifted, the AAEGT – Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented can help with resources, activities and strategies for you and your child.


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