You are here:

Gifted Children/2-year old gifted? If so, should I do anything in particular?


Hi Faith,

Thanks in advance for your time.

My question pertains to my (nearly) two-year-old son. He is a delightful, happy, sociable kid (which immediately makes me think that he's probably not seriously gifted ;)

Since he was pretty young I noticed that 'developmental milestone' charts were not much use to us because he seemed to surpass them by a fair amount. I've kept notes because I thought it was so cute, so I'll dot point them below, but most of them relate to language development (after age 1):

- 3 months rolled both ways. started taking an interest in books; loved being read to
- 4 months sitting up
- 6 months crawling
- 10 months walking
- 11 months said a handful of intelligible words in context (bird, dog, cat, water, down)
- 12 months - about 20 words
- 13 months - nearly 40 words. Made a tower of 8 blocks with no apparent difficulty. From this age could clearly comprehend quite complex instructions (e.g. in the laundry my hands were full one day and I asked him to open the door, but he couldn't reach, so I told him to pull on the bra (!) hanging on the door handle, and he did)
- 14 months - sang the alphabet song (fairly ad lib) while pressing letters on my computer keyboard (i.e. apparently understanding that the song is about letters)
- 15 months - around 50 words and singing a few songs (with lots of gibberish thrown in). Sings the alphabet song every time he sees printed letters/ writing. If ever he hurt himself he'd get very upset and try and tell me what happened (Bang! Hurting!). Knows animal sounds. At 15 months he fractured his leg running in the kitchen and had a cast for a month; thus had to build up strength with walking.
- 16 months - easily 100 words. About 40 words for foods (fruits and veg mainly) alone. Putting words together e.g. 'lying down' 'sitting down'. Looooved books by this age. Started enjoying Dr Seuss (e.g. Hop on Pop, for the funny sounds)
- 17 months - cute little short sentences. 'Building higher here' (building a block tower); 'mummy coming here'. 'Clouds moving'. 'Bus coming'. 'Such a yummy boy' (copying what I say to him!). Counts to 10 but not that accurately. Is starting to memorise the words in picture books - not recognising them from sight I don't think, but remembering what comes next in the story.
- 18 months - pretty well-formed sentences e.g. 'Mummy is painting a picture'; 'the sheeps are running up the hill' (discussing a story book). 'Bath water too hot - more water in it'. 'people are walking down the street'. Pluralises properly. Sings more words of songs.
- 19 months: Sentences constantly improving: 'Put on the sleeping bag please; zip it up'; 'flowers on Daddy's pillow - beautiful flowers'. 'Having a nice bottle in the house'. Has been doing super-cute things like telling stories to soft toys, or telling soft toys what is going on e.g. 'look, mousie, cars!'. Started asking 'who' and 'what' questions e.g. 'whats in there?' or 'Who's that?'. Counts to 17 (!) but can actually count (identify and name the amount) objects up to three e.g. 'Three rice milks in the cupboard'. Sings HEAPS of songs now - really well too. Rhythm is spot on but pitch is fairly loose (we are a very musical family). Makes up his own songs by substituting words in known songs. Remembers the words of favourite books so well that he can 'read' a book of about 15 sentences. LOVES lining things up: at this age I started to find lovely little neat rows of things all around the house.
- 21 months: tells us when he is sad ('I'm crying now; I'm being sad now'). Identifies and names all colours now. Ok with shapes but nothing special. At the park, when he meets other (mostly older) children, he really tries hard to strike up conversations (poor little love, he's so tiny they don't care much about him!)
- 22 months: very complex sentences now, and has added 'because' to his vocal, e.g. 'We need to wash the balloon because it's covered in fish' (don't ask!!) or 'No! Stop taking it out of my mouth!' (instruction to me, because I was trying to stop him eating an alphabet letter!). Sings about 75% correct words of about 30 songs. 'Reads' stories to himself (using his memory I believe). Substitutes words in songs to make new, funny songs e.g. to a that goes 'watermelon, watermelon/ I love, you love, watermelon' he sings 'Mummy milky, mummy milky/ I love, you love, Mummy milky'. Says an increasing number of turns of phrase like 'just a sec'. Also 'Come back Daddy! I need my iPad' (!!! it's not his iPad!!). I guess he knows about 1500-2000 words, including 'dehumidifier' (we hired one) and identifies plants/flowers such as frangipani, jacaranda, camellia, daisy, wattle, etc etc etc. Regarding physical development, he runs and jumps really well, and is taking increasing interest in climbing.
- 23 months (i.e. where we are at now, pretty much: this is a recent diary entry)

"Isaac is quite stunningly hilarious at the moment. A couple of things that I’ve noticed lately:
- knows left and right, all colours, numbers to 20 (skips a couple :)
- understands complex instructions; listens to me when I say that something is poisonous and shouldn’t be eaten
- understands past tense and conjugates most verbs pretty well (or has a good stab at it), as well as plurals (has been doing the latter for a while)
- remembers lots of the words in books and so ‘reads’ to himself or others
- catches a ball probably half the time, at fairly short range; throws really well and kicks really well, with excellent aim for one so young!
- makes quite beautiful designs and towers with plain wooden cuisenaire blocks. Is getting much better at knowing how to balance them.
- sings probably 30 songs pretty well; knows all the words and gets the tune right on at least 5, probably more. Twinkle Twinkle is sung perfectly - words, rhythm and pitch.
- rolls fine snakes in Fimo! He learnt that really quickly actually; it’s quite tricky.
- draws the most BEAUTIFUL circle/egg shapes. He demonstrates pretty amazing control, I reckon; not infrequently he manages to make the end of the circle exactly meet the beginning.
- asks ‘Why?’ a lot now.
- tells ‘jokes’ e.g. ‘We’re all going on a.. Mummy Dance’ instead of ‘Summer Holiday’
- has probably 2000 words? I have no idea, really. But it’s a lot. Lots of flowers too, which is nice!
- says really long sentences like ‘I hurt my knee when I fell over on the footpath with Aunty Mel’ (by way of explaining to me how he came to have a graze on his knee); one morning recently he woke up and, looking dreamy (I wondered if he was describing a dream) he said 'A long time ago, there was a kookaburra on the footpath and it flew up into the tree'.
- takes photographs and videos; knows passwords on mobile devices (grrr!) etc. I'm sure that's pretty standard for today's tots!"

I'm sorry the above makes for boring reading! Does this sound like giftedness, or just a smart cookie?

I gather he's pretty well ahead in most things, but I don't do anything in particular to 'nurture' him (except that I adore him!) other than talk to him a lot. I guess i'm mainly wondering whether I should try and feed his brain more. Often when we are at home (which isn't often because I work part time) I feel guilty that I am doing things around the house instead of helping him learn stuff - should I worry? Intuitively I guess I felt that he needs to learn to make his own fun...

I am concerned about his hunger for technology - he always wants to use ipads, phones and computers - because I know anecdotally that it's not great for little brains even though it can be educational. So one question is: do you have advice on small kids using technology? Do you think that a learning-hungry toddler in today's world needs to use these devices? I am very hesitant but then I'm also noticing that he is hugely interested in them. In my experience, he wont' be interested in things until they start making 'sense' to him.

Also, his language development is clearly pretty well ahead, but he's pretty average with things like shapes and numbers and naming letters - he names shapes but only randomly names a handful of numbers and alphabet letters. Is there a need to encourage this sort of thing?

I guess I'm just unclear on whether I need to do anything in particular, and how I can help him learn.

Sorry for the ramble and thanks for your help!


This is a first. I've never had a parent describe a child's skills using a bra on the doorknob for an example. It sounds like he has a delightful personality.

Your style of communicating tells me that you're ahead of the curve intellectually, and he has almost certainly inherited a genetic predisposition to greater intelligence.

Boys develop language later than girls, usually, so his verbal ability is especially significant. His skills with shapes and numbers is advanced.

At his age everything, everyone, everywhere are still learning experiences, so formal instruction is not necessary.  You couldn't slow him down if you tried. Reading and talking to him alot are excellent. Formal testing is not necessary at this time; it isn't accurate until he's older.

There is a place for technology, but it should be limited. You can use the resources I recommend to determine how much and what type.

It's an astute observation of yours that your son needs to learn how to occupy himself at age-appropriate lengths of time.

There will always be plenty of intellectual stimulation for him; Australia has good services for gifted children.

Your family will enjoy learning about the concept of "critical thinking" - learning how to learn, at

Things to do: Be very aware of his emotional development. Intellectually a child can be years ahead of chronologic years, but emotional development sticks close to age.  It's called "asymmetric development."  Stay mindful of that difference. It's easy to expect too much of gifted children because they just seem so advanced. The world won't recognize the distinction, so it becomes a very important duty of yours. No matter how smart a person is, if they can't get along with people there's little chance for success or fulfilling relationships.

A gifted child needs consistency and firmness in discipline even more than kids of average intelligence, using conversational tones to teach him what's ok and what isn't ok.  Discipline is about learning, not punishment. There's an article I published that gives your job description: "Parent: A Job Description" at, which is useful. You don't want to, in the future, have a moment of clarity and find that "Oh, no! He's running the household! How did that happen?!"

1. Free Spirit Publishing,, has fabulous resources; it's hard not to buy too much. Avoid the zillions of products and gimmicks sold by people just preying on parents eager to give their children the brightest future possible.

2., a service of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has state-of-the-art info about health and more in kids.

3., a service of the American Academy of Family Physicians, for info about all ages and families.

The most important thing to learn today, if you take nothing else from my answer, is: If you are married, MAKE YOUR MARRIAGE HIGH PRIORITY!

The second most important lesson is: Have LOTS of fun. Make family memories.  

Gifted Children

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Faith A. Coleman MD


No questions are off-limits. My strengths are understanding what questioners are really trying to ask, knowing the right questions to get to useful answers, and putting complicated, subject-specific words and concepts into language accessible to lay-persons. The topic is fascinating and can be surprising, the opposite of what might logically seem expected of giftedness. I am skilled in identifying giftedness at any age, including very early in life.


Children constitute about one-third of the patients in a Family Medicine practice. I was Director of Children's and Women's Public Health Education Programs with the Northeast Texas Public Health District. I have two highly gifted children, one of whom attended Roeper School, listed first in this site's Sponsored Links. I was the health expert for Roeper's board of directors; I maintain contacts there. I'm on the board of directors of several organizations of which I'm a member. I spent a summer as the Medical Director of a camp for kids with ADD, ADHD, and psychiatric disorders. Editor, Medical Economics Publishing Co. licensure to teach K-12 in Oklahoma, with added qualification in Journalism

Champions for Children: Advocacy, resources, quality assessment, for early childhood daycare (Board of Directors). American Academy of Family Physicians. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. READ: Advocacy, education, resources for teaching and encouraging literacy in adults. East Texas Network for Children (Planning Board).

Journals: Medical Economics, Contemporary OB/Gyn, Diagnostic Medicine. Albuquerque Journal Daily, Tyler Daily News, New Mexico Daily Lobo, New Citizen Weekly, Alpena News, daily.

BA, Journalism MD University of New Mexico School of Medicine. Internship, Detroit Medical Center. Family Practice Residency, Top-100 Hospital - Beaumont. Clinical Faculty appointments to three medical schools. Faculty, Family Practice Residency, Detroit area.

Awards and Honors
Two official commendations awarded by United States Army for service and contributions to young soldiers and families. Publishing Internship, Medical Economics Publishing Company. Research Internship, Hastings Institute of Society, Ethics, and the Life Sciences. Woman Medical Student of the Year. Numerous others.

Past/Present Clients
As above in experiences, publications and awards. Many thousands of patient/family encounters.

©2017 All rights reserved.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]