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How can you tell if a young child might thrive in a gifted preschool or kindergarten? We all know the stereotype of young gifted children – nerdy prodigies who began to read at age three, have an SAT-level vocabulary and can calculate pi to the 1000th digit. But most gifted preschool and kindergarten age children don’t fit this stereotype.

Even before they start school, gifted children are bright, curious, imaginative, “out of the box” thinkers who sometimes challenge their parents. They ask questions, make messes, and have endless energy. Parents may not see these characteristics as fitting into a gifted profile. They might consider that these young children may do best in a program that focuses on gifted learners.

Parents are making preschool and kindergarten decisions earlier and earlier these days –even up to a year before their children start school. IQ testing is one option to identify gifted learners, but it may not reflect all of the qualities that make up a young gifted learner.

Here are some unexpected signs that a young child might be gifted:

  1. She has friends only she can see.

    Gifted preschoolers often have Imaginary friends – not just one or two, but possibly a whole cast of characters! One of the characteristic traits of gifted learners is an active imagination . Psychiatrist Kazimierz Dabrowski, who wrote extensively on gifted learners, listed imagination as one of the typical “over-excitabilities” that characterize young gifted children.

  2. He never sleeps.

    Busy brains may have trouble winding down and turning off at night. Rather than drifting off peacefully, he may be thinking, creating stories in his head, or even composing poems.

  3. She’s just… a lot!

    Many parents notice that their young gifted children seem more emotionally intense than other children. They may also be very sensitive and aware of injustice or sadness in the world. This emotional intensity is another of the over-excitabilities that Dabrowski observed.

  4. He can tell time or count change.

    Gifted preschool or kindergarten age children may have an affinity for abstract math. They may or may not have a facility for basic math facts like addition and subtraction, but they often understand the “big” concepts almost intuitively. It’s typical for gifted learners to get the “right” answers by skipping the traditional mathematical procedures.

  5. She loves maps, or presidents, or dinosaurs, or rocks, or planets… and wants to tell you all about them!

    She may demonstrate an interest in specific subjects and be interested in learning more and more about the. And then, having mastered the nuances of one topic, she may leave it behind and move into the next fascinating subject.

  6. His friends are all older than him.

    If your child gravitates toward older children as friends, it could be a sign of giftedness. Some psychologists have observed that gifted children may look for friends who match their intellectual age rather than their chronological age. Gifted children often look for “soul mates” with whom they can develop close, trusting relationships, rather than simple “play mates.”reading

If parents observe several of these signs in a preschool or kindergarten-aged child, it may indicate that he or she would thrive in a school that understands the whole picture of the young gifted student. They might also enjoy extracurricular programs and activities that are mixed-age. Adults who are aware of the extra sensitivities, quirks and imagination of gifted kids can provide wonderful opportunities for these students and get them off to a great start in their early education!


Want to learn more about our inquiry-based approach to educating gifted kids? See an overview of our program.

Think Mackintosh Academy might be a fit for your child? Beth Steklac, our Admissions Director, would be happy to chat with you any time.

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