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I have lurked here off and on for a little while, but since my son has only just turned 2 haven't wanted to post or even call him "gifted." The reality is I think it is more likely that he is bright and loves to learn than actually gifted, but I was hoping to pick your brains a little bit for any tips and/or advice you have to offer.
By way of background, my name is Laura and my son Darius turned 2 in January. We do not push "academic" type learning on him at all given his age, but he always seems to want it. Both DH and I offer him information and facilitate his learning, but it is always led by his asking for it or making it clear that he wants to learn more about whatever we tell him. (I feel like I have to have a disclaimer out there that we haven't forced him to memorize ABCs! At his 2 month check his doctor asked us if we forced him to potty train. I was so sad that he seemed to be making that assumption. I digress.....)
Darius knows all of his letters by sight, and now seems to be focusing on the sounds that all of them make. He associates the correct sounds with letters for at least a handful of letters. He can count to 20 (we never have told him beyond that), counts to 10 in Spanish (we didn't really teach him that but he remembered it from a Dora book), and read a couple of words on his own, which we had not taught him, before his second birthday. He is starting to sound words out and can read simple words, particularly short words with "o"s. He has also always been good at making connections between different unrelated things, and just generally is interested in everything. He loves playing instruments (piano and guitar), and makes up songs and sings them. He doesn't know specific notes, but he does have an understanding of high sounds and low sounds on the instruments and tries to adjust his voice accodingly He also loves all sports, and in typical boy fashion runs around like a mad man playing sports in the house.
He met all of his milestones very early, and played interactive games ("where is your tongue", he would stick out his tongue) by 4 or 6 weeks old. But I knew that meeting milestones early isn't necessarily a sign of intelligence. I did notice that he always seemed very attentive to words in books, starting around a month old, and started becoming somewhat obsessed with letters around 6 months or so. He does not know things after seeing them one or two times though (which is why I say he's probably not actually gifted), but is persistant about wanting to learn. I really think he would do ABCs for hours if we sat with him for that long. His interests thus far has deffinitely been letters and words, though he learned his shapes very early too and finally knows most of his colors. He loves books, and always has. He points out signs and whenever the tv has words on it, he yells "ABCs!! Look ABCs!!" and will point out certain letters.
So I guess at this point, I'm really just wondering for any tips on what we can do with him at this age to keep him interested, or if we should really only focus on typical toddler skills, like socialization, etc. He is in daycare 2 half days a week, and is otherwise home with DH (who struggled with school but is extremely bright). And generally, if you BTDT moms have any advice about anything relating to bright kids of this age group.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Big Brother Darius excited for the arrival of
Marcus and Sophie
A little piece of advice for you first... I ran into the "you're forcing" stuff early on, too. What finally worked for me was to say, "You're welcome to spend a day with us to see exactly who's pushing who." Works. Every. Time. There's also a huge difference between encouraging/challenging a kid to their potential and pushing a kid to frustration beyond what they're capable of doing. Children need to be challenged. It's how they learn problem solving and management skills (time management, prioritizing, steps in a process, etc.).
Second... my advice for him is to keep encouraging him to learn letter sounds and words. If you teach whole words, he'll learn to read in chunks, and he's much more likely to confuse sounds or similar words (like snake/shake, for example). If you teach phonics, he'll be able to figure out words he's never even seen before, and when reading them in context, will pick up vocabulary much quicker than his peers as well. Two great, age-appropriate, ways to help him with phonics skills are LeapFrog DVDs and the PBS show "Word World". You can also use online tools like Starfall's Learn to Read with phonics or Progressive Phonics - Progressive Phonics. Teach reading and spelling at the same time with letter pieces (either alphabet magnets or alphabet wooden puzzles). You can also work on math skills while learning to count higher. Learning to count to 20 is the hard part. Once a child has mastered that, all they need to learn is the next set of 10, over and over, up to 100. Teach 1-to-1 relationships with concrete tools rather than abstract workbooks. A 2 year old doesn't care that 2+2=4 on paper, but he'll be likely to understand during snacktime that two raisins for him and two raisins for mommy means you're going to share 4 raisins altogether.
There are a lot of skills that people assume kids are incapable of learning until they go off to school, but it's completely not true. These are things that any bright child (gifted or not, assuming no learning disability is present) will be able to learn much earlier than kindergarten. Play games like Uno (first with only numbers, and then later add in the action cards), Candyland, Go Fish, copying block designs (you build something simple with 4-6 legos and ask him to copy it), and so on. Have him help you in the kitchen. It's amazing how much counting and color identification is necessary when you really stop to think about explaining it to a child. Have him help you in the store when you go grocery shopping. Constantly ask him questions about books you read together, about the weather, about whatever!
My DS was the same when he was that age. I didn't do anything out of the normal to keep him interested, he just has been naturally. I think you will find he will be too. Even with spending k-5th grade in a negative situation he still has kept up his interest to learn on his own, keeping him doing the "lame" been there done that stuff at school was always the hard part. Left to his own devices he spends moments just consumed with his obsession until he is satisfied that he has learned enough for now.. The titanic, the weather, egyptians, astronomy, mechanical engineering... the list goes on.. I never force him to and it always seems that when ever I have tried to bring something to the table for him to he just blows it off because it wasn't something he was interested in.. lol!
I just kept reading to him and read myself so that he was always seeing new stuff and just being happy
The school system in this country fails those that need it the most, and I am done fighting it!
Thank you, that is helpful! We actually use Starfall for whatever is free, but since he is advancing past just the letters it might be worth buying the membership so we can do some of the other phonics/reading things. He has loved starfall since he was an infant. He has also been asking to play games with me all the time. The only games we have are 2 matching games (one is letters) and a bingo game. I thought he might be a little young for other other kinds of games and don't want to frustrate him, but I think now I'll give it a try.
I have to say in addition to the advice, it was really nice just being able to post somewhere about this. DH and I talk about it, but I really don't like talking about milestones or learning with anyone else. I never want to come across like I am bragging to other parents, but as you ladies know its not bragging, its really just talking about your child and trying to figure out what is best for him/her, but I feel that others wouldn't take it that way. DH had a couple of instances when Darius was younger where other dads would watch Darius and say "my kid's not doing that" and it was very uncomfortable. Even with family I don't like talking about it. My mother is always commenting on how she thinks he is exceptionally bright, and indicating more so than her other grandchildren. Aside from the fact that children shouldn't be compared, I don't think its fair to put expectations on a 2 year old about how smart he may end up being or how well he will do in school. I am afraid that it would set him up for failure if he doesn't meet expectations and leads to him getting frustrated or upset, and he's simply too young to decide how he is going to perform in school. I always tell her that he may have just developed a little earlier and will level out with his peers, and that I don't want him to have expectations to live up to.(sorry for the rant!!)
If you all don't mind, I may keep lurking to get ideas and see how other moms are dealing with issues surrounding gifted kids, so if my son continues down this path I will have some knowledge of the issues and considerations. Thanks again!
Big Brother Darius excited for the arrival of
Marcus and Sophie
Starfall is more than just letters, by the way. There are several other tools there... learning phonics, reading "books", learning about composers and artists, etc. The membership is dirt cheap compared to a lot of sites, but at this point, the membership isn't necessary unless you want it for math. There's a lot of free reading stuff.