Children's intelligence quotients (IQs) often are not tested until they are at least in grade school. However, toddlers can show traits indicating high IQs, which labels them "gifted." A high IQ is not exclusive to children who perform well on academic type tasks, and vice versa. As "Psychology Today" puts it, "A bright child knows the answer; the gifted learner asks the questions."
Accelerated language development is common among gifted children. Studies done in 1942 by Leta Hollingworth and in 1993 by Miraca U.M. Gross showed that gifted toddlers have early and prolific language skills.
They often turn that language into a series of unending questions, exhibiting excitement to learn the world around them. These children tend to pick up nuances of language much earlier than their peers, understanding puns or double meanings before parents may expect and laughing at jokes parents believe they shouldn't understand at their age.
While other toddlers still employ baby talk, gifted children use appropriate grammar and speak in full sentences. You may even find that children alter their speech when talking with adults or children, recognizing that adults can comprehend more than children.
As toddlers, they also are able to comprehend long and multiple-step instructions, such as, "put the cup on the table, grab a book from the shelf, bring it here and sit on the couch."
From Language to Books
An interest in books often is associated with gifted learners. Gross points out that reading for them often begins by 4 years old and sometimes earlier. Long before reading starts, toddlers with high IQs may find great interest in picture books and have a strong desire to hear about the objects they find on the pages. Their long concentration levels allow them to sit and look at books or listen to a parent read for significantly longer than most toddlers can.
In her 1990 article "The social and nonsocial behaviors of precocious preschoolers during free play," Lisa Wright wrote that gifted children play very differently from other children starting when they are young. They invent complex plots with lots of imagination and a bit of drama mixed in.
Before speech is even present, you may find them using traditional toys in completely new ways and inventing new uses as they go. They reason through problems in an abstract manner, finding solutions that are theirs alone.
When working on a project, such as building or coloring, many gifted children are intensely concentrated in a way that some would deem obsessive.
Gifted children of all ages can be very intense and emotionally challenging. They can become frustrated when there are gaps between their physical abilities and their mental comprehension. As such, one of the burdens of giftedness can be a challenging social life.
Toddlers may be frustrated with their peers who can't understand things as easily as they do. They often enjoy the company of older children and adults rather than children their own age. This can manifest in long periods of alone-time as they try to avoid the frustration of working with others.
The flip side of this challenge is that a gifted child may be a born leader, showing other children a better way to do a task.