About gifted children
Gifted children are born with natural abilities well above the average for their age. If your child is gifted, you might notice these natural abilities in the way they’re learning and developing.
Children can be gifted in any area of ability, and they can also be gifted in more than one area. For example, a child might be gifted creatively and intellectually. Or they might have above-average physical coordination and memory, or more social and emotional maturity than other children their age.
Children can be gifted at different levels too. That is, some gifted children have more advanced abilities than others. And some gifted children also have disabilities. For example, a child who is intellectually gifted might also have autism or hearing loss.
Being gifted often runs in families. And gifted children are found in all cultures and all types of families.
‘Gifted’ is the term most people use, and it’s used in relation to abilities of all kinds. You might also hear people talk about children with ‘high potential’ or ‘advanced development’ or children who are ‘extremely bright’ or ‘very athletic’.
About talented children
Gifts become talents when they’re developed and nurtured.
This means that gifted children become talented when you support and encourage them to use their natural gifts to learn, concentrate and practise. For example, if your child is gifted musically and you give them opportunities to learn a musical instrument, they might develop a talent for playing.
Many things influence whether a gifted child’s natural ability becomes a talent. These things include family values, educational opportunities, personality and motivation, health and chance opportunities. For example, if your child is gifted in the area of business, with your support they might develop this gift into a talent for marketing and selling eggs their chickens have laid.
You’ll usually notice talents from about 6 years. But sometimes talents show up only later in older children and teenagers. Generally, by late primary school age or the teenage years, a gifted and talented child will be achieving at a very high level in one or more areas.
Gifted and talented areas
Gifted and talented children can have abilities and skills in many areas, and an individual child can be gifted and talented in one or more areas. These areas include:
- academic learning
- social issues
- the arts – for example, music
- the ability to make friends
- business skills
- physical skills – for example, sport or dance.
Signs that children might be gifted and talented
Advanced development is one of the signs that your child might be gifted.
You’ll generally know if your child is more advanced than other children the same age. For example, some intellectually gifted children teach themselves to read at a young age, like 3 years old. Some physically advanced children might excel early in junior sports or physical activities.
Another sign is that your child might prefer to talk with older children or adults. For example, your 4-year-old might relate better to 6-year-olds than to children their own age.
Gifted and talented children also learn differently from other children. For example, if your child is gifted, they might:
- be able to concentrate and focus well on tasks
- be intensely curious and ask sharp questions
- learn very quickly
- have an extremely good memory
- be very imaginative and creative
- have advanced speech.
People might comment on your child’s abilities if your child is gifted and talented.
Gifted older children and teenagers might show their natural abilities or talents when they start a new subject. For example, your child might start chemistry at secondary school and learn new ideas much faster than other students. Or you might notice talent when your child wins an award – for example, being selected to swim at the national championships or winning a woodwork prize in a local art show.
You know your child best. If you think your child might be gifted or talented or your child has been identified as gifted and talented, you could contact the association for gifted and talented children in your state or territory. These associations are listed in our article on support and programs for gifted and talented children.
Jack’s teacher started commenting on his ability to ask really deep questions and then ask more deep questions that arose from the answers he’d been given. We just thought this was a quirk of Jack’s – to ask these really difficult questions.
– Fay, mother of Jack (7 years)
Supporting gifted and talented children
Some things might come easily for your gifted and talented child, but they might need support in other areas, depending on their particular abilities and personalities.
For example, your child might:
- not have much in common with children of the same age, especially if they have wide-ranging or unusual interests, so they might get frustrated with other children
- get bored at preschool or school or stop trying when school lessons are about things they already know
- use their high verbal abilities to take over discussions with other people, especially at school, or they might use these abilities to avoid doing tasks they don’t like
- find it tough to follow strict rules – for example, at home, school or sporting clubs, especially if they have original ideas and like coming up with creative solutions
- have strong feelings compared with other children the same age and have trouble managing these feelings – for example, a young gifted child might be very upset when an insect dies
- might hide advanced interests or learning when they reach the teenage years, because they want to fit in with friends.
If this sounds like your child, you can help them make the most of their potential by supporting your child’s learning along with their social and emotional development.
Families of gifted children need to help them to understand others, manage challenges and learn life skills. Your family is a safe and secure place where your child is accepted and loved for who they are.
Raising gifted and talented children
Your gifted and talented child might amaze you with deep questions about life and death or creative drawings that show the thinking and skills of an older child.
Keeping up with a gifted child’s need for learning can be exciting, but it can also be a big job that takes time, money and energy.
Looking after yourself can help you do this big and important job well. You can look after yourself by eating well, getting enough physical activity and rest, making time for things you enjoy, and managing any stress you experience.
Parents of other gifted children can also be a great source of support, information and ideas. You can meet them through your child’s gifted programs or through an association for gifted and talented children in your state or territory.
The way you support your gifted child’s development depends on your family circumstances. For example, you might decide that you can’t afford extra dance classes for now. The main thing is to support your child’s development in the long term.