Many parents will lovingly observe their child and wonder, is my kid gifted? After all, not every kid can learn all the words to that Frozen song by two and a half. And indeed, not every kid can memorize the names of more than a hundred dinosaurs by age four. By the time my middle child was three, he left adults in stitches with his wild puns and jokes that seemed a bit advanced for his age. By the time he was five, he had solved a Rubik’s cube on his own. And I’m not alone; lots of parents I know have similar stories of their children doing seemingly amazing things that are not covered in the chapter on milestones in the what to expect style handbooks.
So, parents will naturally wonder if their child is gifted. But what does gifted even mean, and how can you tell if your child fits the bill? Here are ten tell-tale signs that your kid may be gifted.
What does gifted mean?
The word gifted generally refers to kids who learn faster and retain information longer than what is accepted as average. At least, this is how I understand the flexible term gifted to mean.
The term gifted was first used in 1869 by Francis Galton, who thought that giftedness was an inherited trait seen in adults. From there, the term evolved through several movements of thought. In the 1900s, psychologists gave the denotation of giftedness a benchmark and noted that anyone labeled gifted must have an IQ of 140 or greater. By the 1920s, psychologists realized that giftedness was a combination of environment and genetics.
Currently, there are multiple definitions of gifted that consider different aspects of what giftedness means. For example, since most kids matriculate through a school system, the likelihood that a teacher will identify their giftedness is the highest. That said, it is essential to note that schools define giftedness as comparing one child against the average performance of all other children in their grade level.
Where the school definition of giftedness gets messy is that it often doesn’t take into account the emotional turbulence of gifted kids. Because, as we’ll see below, gifted kids tend to be emotionally sensitive and behaviorally difficult. That troubled kid in class who is failing all of his courses? He might actually be a genius and isn’t getting the support he needs to meet his potential.
Outside of the school setting, parents can ask their child to be screened by a professional who will look specifically at the child’s strengths and compare them to a database of other gifted people worldwide. Some argue that this is a more appropriate and accurate way to determine if a child is gifted or not.
If a parent wants to have their child screened for giftedness by a professional, there are several ways to go about it:
- Call the educational psychology department of a university where you are likely to find someone who does this type of testing or knows someone who does.
- Call a psychologist where you are likely to find professionals trained in testing children for giftedness.
- Contact the school administration of an urban school. Well-funded, urban schools typically have licensed psychologists on staff who are trained in testing and identifying gifted children.
- Check out the National Organization for Gifted Children where you can look up resources by state.
What are the tell-tale signs of giftedness in a child?
Gifted kids will typically exhibit some or all of these tell-tale signs. Remember, even if your child doesn’t command all of these skill sets, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t gifted. Only testing can reveal your child’s level of giftedness for sure. Additionally, if your child doesn’t qualify for giftedness, remember that there are far more critical things in life than how much brighter your kid is when compared to others.
Your kid gets bored easily.
Gifted kids tend to have an intense need for constant intellectual stimulation, and if they can’t find a way to get that, they grow bored and may even act out.
Your kid could easily skip a grade or two — or three.
Gifted kids can master their age-based grade material incredibly easily and would likely not be challenged by coursework unless they skip a few grades.
Your kid seems to eat facts for lunch.
Gifted kids have the unique ability to learn fast, absorb large quantities of information in short periods, and retain what they learned. In short, gifted kids seem to pick up new information at a breakneck speed and then hang on to it.
Your kid is funny on an adult level.
If your child seems to have a natural timing for jokes and puns and manages to engage adults with their impressive comedy chops, then they might be gifted.
Your kid can solve problems in a uniquely creative way.
Kids with big IQs tend to find imaginative ways to solve problems. This unique ability to problem solve outside of the box can be expressed in a wide range of ways, but it will undoubtedly stand out.
Gifted kids are hyper-aware.
One sure tell-tale sign of giftedness in children is how self-aware, socially aware, and aware of global issues outside of their typical age-based range of interests.
Your kid cannot stop asking questions.
Does your child have a tireless curiosity and seems never to stop asking you questions about — -everything? That’s a sure sign of giftedness.
Your kid is a mini researcher.
Kids who might be identified as gifted tend to focus on one or a small few areas of interest. But what sets them apart from other kids is just how deep into learning they are willing to explore — the more challenging, the better.
Does your child seem to be emotionally sensitive?
Gifted kids can be intensely emotional. Sometimes they can explode, making parenting gifted kids a tricky balancing act. For kids with intense emotional sensitivity, they express a sometimes adult-like emotional depth.
Your kid really loves specific topics.
The level of enthusiasm for learning about specific things from math to opera to race car engines to how the galaxy works to whatever topic your child is pulled toward can be startlingly impressive to adults.
If you think your child is gifted or want to learn more about identifying giftedness, set up testing for your child, or learn more, check out The National Association for Gifted Children.