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 she’s 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 he might have above-average physical coordination and memory, or more social and emotional maturity than other children his 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 have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or a hearing impairment.

Being gifted often runs in families. And gifted children come from different cultures and all types of families.

‘Gifted’ is the term most people use, and it can be 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 they use their natural gifts to learn, concentrate and practise. For example, if your child is gifted musically and you give her opportunities to learn a musical instrument, she 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 ability, with your support he might develop this gift into a talent for marketing and selling eggs his chickens have laid.

You’ll usually notice talents from about six 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
  • leadership
  • social issues
  • technology
  • the arts – for example, music
  • the ability to make friends
  • business skills
  • physical skills – for example, sport or dance.

Signs that your child 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 three years old. Some physically advanced children might excel early in gymnastics.

Another sign is that your child might prefer to talk with older children or adults. For example, your four-year-old might relate better to six-year-olds than to children her own age.

Gifted and talented children also learn differently from other children. For example, if your child is gifted, he 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.

Another sign of giftedness is that people comment on your child’s abilities.

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 (seven years)

Challenges of being gifted and talented

Being gifted and talented can have challenges. These depend on your child’s particular natural abilities, her personality and the people she has to support her.

For example, gifted and talented children with wide-ranging or unusual interests might not have much in common with children of the same age. So they might get bored at preschool or school. Or they might get frustrated with other children, or stop trying when school lessons are about things they already know. In the teenage years, they might hide advanced interests or learning to fit in with friends.

Children with high verbal abilities might take over discussions with other people, especially at school. Or they might use this ability to avoid doing tasks they don’t like.

Children with original ideas and creative solutions might find it tough to follow strict rules – for example, at home, school or sporting clubs.

Also, gifted children often have strong feelings compared with other children the same age and they might have trouble managing these feelings. They might get more upset about things than you expect. For example, a young gifted child might be very upset when an insect dies.

If this sounds like your child, you can help him overcome challenges like these and make the most of his potential by supporting his learning.

Families of gifted children 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 she is.

Parenting a gifted and talented child: joys and challenges

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.

Sometimes you might enjoy answering your child’s questions. Some days it might feel like one more thing you have to do.

Keeping up with a gifted child’s need for learning can be exciting, but it can be challenging and exhausting too. It can also take time and money to find resources to support your child’s learning

At times, parents of gifted children can feel lonely. Parents of typically developing children might not understand how you’re raising your child, and some might even criticise you.

Parents of other gifted children can be a great source of 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.