Gifted Children/2 year old advanced?
We just started our two year old in an early preschool program because he was bored at home - his teacher had been sending home notes saying how well he is doing and this past week pulled us aside to let us know that he knows more than what she is going to teach this year. She also indicated that his vocabulary and sentence structure is very advanced for a two year old. Being very skeptical on how much he knew we proceeded to test him a bit at home, sure enough he is able to identify all the letters of the alphabet, numbers 1-10, he is able to count objects up to 10 (we didn't test any further than that), he knows all his colors and shapes - he even pointed out and named a trapezoid. I was flabbergasted as we had never sat down with him to go over any of this. I was aware that his vocabulary was advanced but I had chalked that up to being the second child and hearing constant interaction between multiple people in the house. He is able to communicate with adults in full sentences (16+ words with detail). My ultimate question is what should I do for him? Is this a phase? Should I be furthering him? Every piece of advice I get from other mothers is don't push him and let him be a kid - but I am doing this, like I have said we have never gone over these things with him.
I am so very glad that you asked this question. You are right on target being concerned about your child’s current school situation. I am going to respond with two different aspects of this situation; the real answer will be a blending of the two perspectives.
On one hand, two-year-olds are busy doing the work of playing, learning about balance, motor control, social interactions, and communication … among many other really important things. The day of a two-year-old should be primarily spent playing, exploring, interacting with family and friends, and engaging in creative activities. Nature is a wonderful environment in which toddlers can learn, explore, and increase their knowledge of the world. A great deal of social learning takes play through play; children this age begin to engage in dramatic play. You may see your child pretend to be a truck driver or parent. Children especially love to act out the jobs and responsibilities they see their parents and family members perform each day. The two-year-old brain is busy creating neural connections to support all this rich activity and knowledge about life, society, and the world!
So from this perspective, you can evaluate the program in which your child is currently enrolled. Does the program offer enrichment stations with supplies and materials for creative play? Dramatic play (acting like a fire fighter or chef)? A variety of developmentally appropriate toys (trucks, dolls, balls, blocks, shape sorters, color sets, number and letter puzzles or games, books, sorting activities, matching activities, memory games, animal identification activities, etc.)? Do the children have ample opportunity to interact? Do they sit down for a meal and talk with the teacher and one another? Does the teacher encourage each child’s creativity and imagination? Doe the teacher read to the children each and every day? Do they discuss the weather and days of the week? Is the teacher focused on the developmental milestones that are important for this age group? Can the teacher discuss what developmental milestones she is looking for from your child? All these are great questions to consider when evaluating the program and the classroom setting, and you can feel comfortable discussing all these things with his teacher. You have a right a as a parent to know the answer to all these questions!
On the other hand, your child seems to have some rather advanced abilities and requires adequate stimulation and enrichment. The portion of a two-year-old’s day that should be allocated for academic learning must be very limited. Children really do learn through play; however, your child may benefit from playing with some toys, puzzles, books, games and sets that are a bit more sophisticated than the current classroom. In addition, the teacher must do something called “differentiation of instruction”, which means that the teacher should make some adjustments to the level of academic material to which your child is exposed in order to maintain interest and engagement. Placing an academically gifted child in a mainstream classroom without proper differentiation of instruction to provide reasonably challenging experiences is tragically sad. Bright little ones may be left feeling misunderstood, bored, and left out when the classroom learning materials are boring and simple. The good news is, however, that parents can work with teachers to come up with some simple solutions for those brief moments each day that academic subjects are addressed. From a practical perspective, parents can provide the teacher with some alternative and slightly more advanced books and materials to ease the way. That way, your child can benefit from the rich social and play experiences available in their same-age classroom, but also benefit from some enrichment curriculum that is more academically geared to the child’s advanced ability level.
The best answer to your great question is to put both these perspectives together into a cohesive view on how to handle gifted little ones. Talented and gifted toddlers still need to play and socialize, whether at school or at home. They also need, however, to continue to learn and be challenged every day. If a two-year-old knows all the regular curriculum, consider some of these options:
1) Place your child in a private school that caters to gifted youngsters; the school may even be willing to provide a scholarship in order to have your bright little one in their program!
2) Bring enrichment supplies to school for the teacher to provide to your child; explore whether there are other advanced children in the classroom who would also like to engage in this more stimulating curriculum.
3) Enroll your child in a leveled on-line computer facilitated curriculum; ask the teacher to allow your child to work on the computer for 10 or 20 minutes each day. Many such programs will adjust difficulty according to the child’s ability level. You may have to go to the classroom for the first few weeks to help your child learn how to navigate the program; over time, your child will become increasingly independent and only require minimal supervision by the teacher while using the computer learning program.
4) Investigate the three-year-old classroom in your child’s school. See if there are activities, books, games, and play sets that are more suited to your little one’s ability level. If so, ask the teacher to borrow some of those items throughout the week to allow your child exposure to more enriching experiences! The school may even be willing to allow your child to spend an hour each day in the three-year-old classroom in order to have exposure to some more advanced curriculum and supplies.
5) If you really love the school and your child is happy there, just let him play and have fun! Then provide him with a solid 10 or 20 minutes of more advanced training and instruction after school. After dinner is a great time to settle down for an alphabet game, a sorting or counting project, or coloring with crayons. Then a little reading at bedtime is a lovely way to end the day for a gifted and talented little one! Read stories that entice the imagination and be sure to ask questions about what is going on in the story or what is going to happen next! The more you can engage your child in reading books, the more support you will provide for your child’s literacy development! Consider books that teach about various subjects like manners, kindness, numbers, counting, animals, places, careers … the list is endless! The availability of children’s books on Kindle or through Amazon opens up a world of possibilities for your child’s bedtime reading experiences!
I know there is a great deal of information here, but you really did ask a very important question. Parents of gifted and talented youngsters face these kinds of problems every day. I recall being totally bored in Kindergarten; I was already reading fluently while my classmates were just learning the letters and sounds. My teacher did something awesome for me: She let me read aloud to my classmates several times a week. In this way, I got to practice my reading skills while my little friends continued to play quietly at their stations. This was a wonderful accommodation for my advanced reading ability, and also allowed me the rich experiences of playing and imaging with my same-age friends. I feel confident that you will be able to create some similarly creative and effective solutions to keep your child challenged and engaged while he also gets to benefit from playing with his wonderful classmates!
Best of luck with your wonderful little one! He is so lucky to have such a caring and committed parent! Please let me know if you have any more questions … and drop a line to share what you decided after evaluating all these important factors!
Happy parenting, Kayla!
Darleen Claire Wodzenski, MS ESE, QPPE