Early Childhood Precociousness is Not an Indication of Giftedness

A friend recently forwarded to me an article on giftedness and it talks about a subject that I think is very relevant today, especially with the increasing awareness that parents have on early childhood development. Many parents have clued in on early enrichment and the impact it can have on a child’s development. Add to that the fact that many children today have access to so much more resources compared to the children from the previous generation – it’s not surprising that we are seeing a lot more precocious children than ever before.

This scenario reminded me of something I read in an article (I think it was The Expert Mind). It talks about how the chess grandmasters of today rank higher than many of the chess grandmasters from before earlier generations. Based on their scores, some of the grandmasters from the earlier generations probably wouldn’t even rank as grandmasters on today’s scale. Despite this, the article stated that the historical grandmasters were more creative than the grandmasters of today because they had to learn a lot on their own. The chess grandmasters of today have access to resources that those grandmasters never had. Because of these resources, they are able to cover more ground quickly. These resources allow them to learn things the older grandmasters had to figure out for themselves.

I guess that’s the same for giftedness. Because of the availability of the resources, children today are intellectually more advanced than the children of the previous generation. This makes many of them appear gifted. I hope that makes sense. I don’t want to take away from the achievements of our children today because they truly are amazing individuals who are capable of so much. Every child is special and unique and their early learning abilities are truly remarkable. It it important not to lose sight of that in the search for giftedness. Gifted or not, every child has that window in the first six years of life where their learning is exponential – let’s not forget that.

Above and beyond this exponential learning ability, there are a certain number of children who are truly gifted. Many of us, with the best of intentions for our children, want to know as early as possible whether our child might be gifted so that we can help them develop their talents. As a result, it is easy to jump the gun and start testing too early which can lead to a false positive.

The article mentioned above concurs with what Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman wrote in their book Nurture Shock: most children who tested as gifted from an early age end up levelling out by the third grade. Therefore, any testing done before Grade 3 does is not an accurate predictor for giftedness.

So how do you know if your child is truly gifted or just well nurtured? Wait until at least the 3rd grade before testing. In the meantime, keep doing whatever it is you’re doing. Regardless of whether a child is gifted or not, you would still want the best for him. You should still take advantage of that exponential learning ability in the first 6 years of life and you should still be in awe of your child’s magnificence. Essentially, nothing really changes.

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Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

3 thoughts on “Early Childhood Precociousness is Not an Indication of Giftedness

  1. I also read somewhere that it could be going to school “killed” any initial giftedness by third grade. Perhaps these children got too bored / uninspired / bullied into covering up their giftedness in regular school? I haven’t read the study mentioned but I always thought that exceptionally gifted children fit poorly into regular schools, which aren’t designed for both ends of the spectrum.


    1. Interesting perspective MieVee. School seems to kill a lot of the good things in kids and I keep wondering if all formal schooling is a lost cause or if it is a certain ideology or practice that needs changing.

      For us, schooling is not something we can opt out of (lots of issues discussed with hubby which I won’t get into here) so I’ve been trying to determine how we can avoid the pitfalls of school. It’s gotten me thinking a lot about what we’re trying to get out of an education for the boys and whether the current arrangement is meeting it.


  2. Ha… we aren’t opting out of primary school either. Just that if an affordable Montessori elementary school is available, would be ideal. Hard to believe there’s none in KL! There’s a Waldorf school though, in case you’re interested. My main gripe about regular schools nowadays is the strong emphasis on grades and awards, which may hinder a more balanced development. Anyway, off topic here. 🙂


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