Is my baby or toddler gifted?

By Dr. Deborah Ruf

Your baby or toddler seems very smart and way ahead of his or her peers. Does this mean the child is gifted? Here are some general guidelines to help you know if your child is likely to be gifted. Personality type, boy or girl, and the reactions of those around the children can affect how many of these items describe very young gifted children. The earlier any of the behaviors below occur, the more likely your child is highly to exceptionally gifted.

Birth to 4 months:

  • Makes eye contact soon after birth and continues this interaction and awareness of others
  • Makes eye contact while nursing
  • Does not like to be left in infant seat
  • Almost always wants someone in the room interacting with him or her
  • Very alert; others notice and comment

4 months to one year:

  • Seldom “mouths” toys
  • Shows purpose with toys, seldom destructive or arbitrary
  • Pays attention when read to or watching TV
  • Plays pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo
  • Waves bye-bye, says ma-ma, dada, and bye-bye
  • Follows directions, knows what’s next in routine

One year to 18 months:

  • Obvious interest in competence; has “fits” when not permitted to do it himself (or herself)
  • Long attention span
  • Obvious interest in letters, numbers, books, and talking
  • Surprisingly good eye-hand coordination for shape sorters, putting things in and taking things out
  • Uses puzzles and toys that are beyond stated age level
  • Does not chew on or tear books
  • Tries hard to please; feelings easily hurt  

18 months to 2 years:

  • Talking, clear understanding of others’ talk
  • Knows many letters, colors, and numbers. The brightest gifted children often know how to count and organize by quantities, know many colors and shades, and know the alphabet in order or isolation. This is at their insistence, not parental drill.
  • Tenacity; needs to do it own way and not done until they are done

Dr, Deborah Ruf, Ph.D., the founder of TalentIgniter, is an international authority in gifted assessment, test interpretation, and guidance for the gifted. Having been a parent, teacher and administrator in elementary through graduate education, she writes and speaks about school issues and social and emotional adjustment of gifted children. She developed the Ruf Estimates of Levels of Gifted™, which is delineated in her book, 5 Levels of Gifted: School Issues and Educational Options, as well as in the new online assessment at TalentIgniter