Toddlers are naturally busy little people. Their world is expanding and they must explore. While children can have high energy levels without being gifted, Dr. Karen Rogers, associate professor of gifted studies at St. Thomas University in Minnesota, found that almost 80 percent of all gifted and high IQ children exhibited high energy behavior and almost half needed less sleep than their peers. Gifted children have a measured IQ of 130 or higher, while profoundly gifted are 160 and above. The average age at which the gifted toddler begins to speak is 9 months old. Most high IQ children read fluently by the age of 4. However, parents of gifted toddlers often find themselves exhausted by their child’s need for action. The good news is that there are things parents can do to cope with the high energy levels of highly intelligent toddlers.
Set clear and consistent limits for the child. Set these limits before the child explores or acts. Before going to the park you might say something like: “We will go to the playground for 30 minutes, then we need to go home for a snack.” Be sure to remind the child 10, then 5 minutes before it is time to leave. This helps the child transition her expectations to the next activity.
Designate a place for the child to calm down. Any high energy child, gifted or not, can benefit from having a place that limits stimulation and encourages the chld to calm down. This can be a special chair or even a spot on the floor. This isn’t a place for punishment or consequences such as a time-out chair. Instead, this should be a pleasant area. You may want to keep a few soft toys in the spot. The toddler can squeeze or hug the toys to calm down.
Watch for signals that the child is escalating. Before the toddler becomes too active or excitable, help him to calm and focus on a specific toy or task.
Keep a box or basket of educational toys and books handy. You can pull out an item whenever the child seems bored or needs a focus. Items might include coloring books or pages, magnetic letters or small containers of dough. Help the child explore different ways to use each item such as shaping letters out of the dough or sticking the completed pictures to the refrigerator with the magnetic letters in the toddler’s name.
Set a calming routine before bedtime. Reading books, singing or praying are all quiet ways for you to teach your child to calm down before bed. By repeating this calming routine, your child will learn to relax and get his mind and body ready for sleep.