Gifted toddlers
December 14, 2005 11:46 PM   Subscribe

Resources for parenting gifted toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Several people -- ranging from former teachers to complete stranges -- have suggested my son may be gifted. I'm interested in books and resources on parenting gifted children during the toddler and pre-school years.

(I recognize that my son may not actually be gifted, but I'd still like to read up on the subject, just in case.) Thanks in advance.
posted by acoutu to Human Relations (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Hrmm... I don't have any books or resources for you, but from being a gifted toddler myself (I was reading at 3, writing and doing basic arithmetic at 4) just try things to keep your child learning. Reading books to them is a brilliant start. Buying them a little chalkboard with those "letter magnet" things works well as well. Puzzle books for slightly older children (in the 5-6 year old range) will also help. In general, just try to challenge your child with fun and educational toys/games and you are definitely off to a good start.

Most importantly, once the child DOES get to school, try to keep them challenged. Mention to their teachers that they seem to show signs of giftedness, and to keep an eye out for boredom. Laziness sets in early with gifted kids, as it did with me, and it's a hard habit to break. If you get get good grades with little effort, you are rarely bothered working harder at bettering yourself. I know! :)
posted by antifuse at 2:42 AM on December 15, 2005

Are you able to home school? A gifted kid will be bored in school. He will simply not be able to progress naturally, but will always have to wait for the rest of the class to "get it" before he can move on. He'll come home every day, you'll ask him what he learned, and he'll say "nothing," and it will be true.
posted by leapingsheep at 5:07 AM on December 15, 2005

I've recommended this before on the green, but there's a book called The Well-Trained Mind. Any larger libraries in your area (if US) will almost certainly have a copy. It's used frequently by homeschoolers, but is also used by people who simply want to supplement their kids' (school) education. I know your child isn't in school yet, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a look at The Well-Trained Mind with an eye to developing some long-term thoughts and goals about your son's education. It's very approachable and thorough.

Full disclosure: A friend of mine wrote it, but I don't benefit in any way by your buying it. And it's probably at your library anyway.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:21 AM on December 15, 2005

Frontline Phonics is a great resource. Unlike many other reading programs, it's explicitly designed as a way to teach bright 3 and 4 year olds to read early.

Choose your schools carefully. Gifted children aren't handled well anywhere except elite private schools and the public schools of college towns and very upscale suburbs. Avoid -- like a plague -- any school which is struggling to meet its NCLB obligations. Without exception those schools abandon gifted education completely, if ever they had any in the first place.
posted by MattD at 5:42 AM on December 15, 2005

As the parent of 2 kids who might be considered gifted (I was labeled as such as a child and I am ambivalent about the term) I second the suggestion to read, read, read. If your child has a weird interest (with my older son, it was squids. He was the only 4 year old I knew who could say architeuthis!) feed it with books, videos, computer games,etc. even if they are above his age level. Kids like that soak up stuff they are obsessed by and a clever parent can introduce and encourage all sorts of knowledge and skills by going with it.

I homeschool my boys. Kids who can read before Kindergarten, as both of mine could, face a disadvantage. It's true. Most schools spend Kindergarten and first grade teaching letters and reading. The kid who already knows how to read has to sit and wait patiently for the rest of the class to catch up. Since gifted kids are also often attention challenged, this can lead to issues. On the other hand, you don't want to advance a 5 year old to 2nd or 3rd grade, either. So we kept them home and have been very happy.

I guess I want to stress that we've never focused on academics in a strict and rote learning way. Until this year (5th grade) my older son did mostly unit studies. My 5 year old is allowed to simply explore and play and soak up the world. Both are happy, curious kids.

Good luck.
posted by Biblio at 6:24 AM on December 15, 2005

As a kid who went through this myself, antifuse's and Biblio's comments really resonated for me. Specifically: keeping things for learning available; reading to and with him; encouraging hobbies; and keeping teachers in the know about the situation.

Education can become a challenge: I was fortunate to have at least one parent who could and did fight the school system for everything I needed, and eventually I did the same for myself. If he gets bored in school, please look for options that might include mixed-grade classes, skipping grades, or independent tutoring at an advanced rate. Never let teachers get away with giving busy work to keep him out of their way. (I had experience with all of the above.) Personally, I'm glad I wasn't home-schooled, but to each their own. The school district I was in was public, mostly middle income but representing both extremes, in the Midwest.

Another thing people haven't mentioned yet: Early-developing bookish tendencies sometimes overwhelm important activities like the outdoors or sports. Outdoor learning (about plants, animals, etc.) is a lot of fun and very healthy. Sports, especially team sports, are critical for social development - that's the one area I was allowed to skimp on as a kid that I eventually came to regret.
posted by whatzit at 6:45 AM on December 15, 2005

Please, please, please don't opt for skipping grades. School is just as much about learning social skills as it is about academics (perhaps more so). If your kid gets bored at school there are a million other things to do: learn another language, play a sport, take up a musical instrument, do volunteer work, peer-tutor and read, read, read. (I know volunteer work and peer-tutoring may not be an option for a pre-schooler.) I suppose I was a 'gifted' kid too (not that I know exactly what that means) and I am forever grateful that my parents gave me a bicycle, took me to the library and gave me lego - filling my needs regarding activity, curiosity and creativity.
posted by madokachan at 12:48 PM on December 15, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks. My husband and I were both gifted (still are?) and we understand the rewards and challenges. I'm not that worried about school yet, since my son is still very young. I was just wondering about resources for coming up with activities, implementing consistent discipline, fostering good social skills, and managing the behaviour patterns of a very young gifted child.

My husband learned to read before he went to school. His mother insisted all her children (7) learn. She then made them all skip kindergarten. This had mixed results. For my husband, it wasn't a bad thing, but I'm not sure it was good for the others.

In comparison, my mother was a teacher before I was born. She felt strongly that children should not learn to read before they started school unless they showed a keen interest in doing so. I wasn't interested in learning. I learned to read in Grade One, along with everyone else. By Grade Two, I was tested at an 11th grade reading level. So I probably won't worry much about teaching my son to read, unless he wants to do so.

Thanks for all the schooling suggestions. I'm more interested in what goes on in the years before school right now, though.
posted by acoutu at 2:26 PM on December 15, 2005

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