Gifted Children and Play
Gifted children are interested in play, although observations on the playground might seem to indicate that they are loners and only engage in solitary play. Several factors can contribute to this misperception.
The gifted child needs to have friendships and play with peers who have like-advanced ability levels. Moreover, they are more likely to have one or two friends rather than move among larger social groups. They have play interests that are more advanced than same-age playmates. Because of their advanced language and conceptual skills, they may be perceived to be “bossy” and thus poorly received by their classmates (Porter, 2001).
The policies for entrance and promotion in public schools in the United States further restrict play and friendship opportunities for gifted children. In many states children are denied early entrance into elementary schools and prevented from making significant acceleration in grade commensurate with their intellectual abilities and advanced achievement. Current policies of inclusion of children with diverse abilities and disabilities do not address the learning needs of gifted children. The focus on inclusion has been on working with children with disabilities. Thus gifted children are not “included” relative to their advanced learning abilities. Opportunities to have friendships and play and learn with intellectual peers receive little consideration (Kearney, 1996; Osborn, 2006). For example, a 5-year-old who is 3 years advanced in intellectual development can play chess, games with rules, and build complex structures will have difficulty finding a play partner who can engage in this type of play (Osborn, 2006).
Gifted children enjoy playing. They want to have friends. They play at their mental level rather than at their chronological levels. A significant requirement for them to be able to engage in their play interests is to have like-minded friends. They do not choose to be social isolates and engage only in solitary play. If they are fortunate enough to be schooled with other gifted children, they can engage in play that is appropriate for the level of development. If other gifted children are not available, playing with older playmates can also be enjoyable (Gross, 2002; Osborn, 2006).
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