Characteristics and Traits of a Gifted Preschooler

— American Association for Gifted Children
Updated on Dec 11, 2008

Is your preschool child gifted? Here are some traits to look for, provided by the American Association of Gifted Children:

Language and Learning

  • talks and reads early and has a large vocabulary
  • demonstrates advanced language proficiency
  • enjoys self-expression, especially in discussion
  • has unique learning style
  • has greater than average attention span
  • asks many questions
  • exhibits advanced observational skills and retains information about what is observed or read
  • is challenged by problems, and chooses sophisticated activities, such as chess or collecting, as early as age 5 and shows interest in many kinds of books, atlases, and encyclopedias
  • is interested in calendars, clocks, and puzzles
  • is proficient in drawing, music, or other arts

Psychomotor Development and Motivation

  • walks early and displays early or advanced fine motor control in writing, coloring, and building
    things; loves projects that require inquiry
  • is driven to explore things, is curious, asks "why"
  • wants to master the environment; enjoys learning
  • is extremely active and goal oriented
  • has wide-ranging, consuming interests

Personal-Social Characteristics

  • spends less time sleeping
  • is more dependent on adults for communication
  • interacts with adults more effectively than with children, and struggles with adult inconsistency
  • is sensitive to dishonesty and insincerity in adults
  • demonstrates awareness of issues, such as death, war, and world hunger

(*A child does not have to exhibit all or even a majority of these characteristics to be identified as gifted. Seeing a number of traits in one child, however, indicates a need to take a closer look at the extent of the child's giftedness.)

While many educators have emphasized the need to identify giftedness in young children, there is seldom a concerted effort to identify primary level children for gifted programs and preschoolers have almost no opportunity to be evaluated and placed in programs that meet their needs. One of the main reasons cited for not acting to identify young children is the inadequacy of identification procedures.

The National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 1988) has adopted a position statement on Developmentally Appropriate Practices in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, which expresses concern about the use of standardized testing for placing young children in special programs and the practice of making decisions based on a single score or measure. Their position is based on agreements that instruments used for such selection are not reliable and valid when used with very young children. Further, teachers are often unable to recognize signs of giftedness in young children and continue to select only students who are high achievers in the classroom (Roedell, 1985, Whitmore, 1982). Parents are fairly accurate identifiers of gifted preschoolers, but need other indicators.

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