At What Age Does It Get to Be Interesting?

by Hanna Vock


Some people believe high abilities do not show before children reach school age. Meanwhile the entire manual is talking about pre-school children showing distinct signs of giftedness and that these children react rather positively to targeted measures of support.

But, is this also true for children under the age of 3?

Some of our students have been working with children under 3 for quite a while and have been able to gather experience with this age group. Their accounts and the careful observations made in the children’s families can be instrumental in directing the attention towards the very young children.

It is a pronounced indicator of an intelligence far above average if we observe what Lydia Kretschmar is describing in one of her assignments for the IHVO Certificate Course:

>A one and a half years old boy in our kindergarten would usually answer the question „the cat makes …?“ correctly. One day, however, he answered “woof, woof” and cracked up over his own joke when seeing his teachers expression.<

Another example, which has already been mentioned in a different part of the manual to illustrate an early sense of humor, is this:

A girl (1;8) is amused when her mother points to a chair and asks: „Is this a book?“ The child bursts out laughing and says: “No, t’air” (chair). After another few questions the child spontaneously assumes the active part and asks, pointing at the teddy-bear: “Is that ball?” and when mother answers: “No, that’s a doll”, the child screams of joy and shouts: “No, tetty!” (teddy-bear).”

It is an extraordinary feat for a child of this age to not only play this game in response but to come up with „false questions“ itself.

The following list itemizes some striking characteristics of very young children with special gifts:

It must be kept in mind here that these can only be first hints at high ability. These indicators should however be observed carefully in order to track down the Playing and Learning Needs of these children.

1-12 months:

  • The baby appears to be very alert. When awake it is constantly searching for new sensory input (and in the course of this it is intensely training its senses and promoting the brain’s ability to process and cross-link data). Soon it will be visually curious and active. It examines anything new (for example colours, lines, lines that meet, moving leaves and similar things) with great concentration and persistence.
  • The baby may have difficulties winding down from its very alert state of consciousness and go to sleep.
  • Oftentimes it doesn’t want to be lying, because it gets bored quickly. It is content as soon as it is put into an upright sitting position where it can look around and if that position is changed from time to time; some of these children want to be carried around a lot, not only because this is soothing and comfortable but because this allows them to look at and listen to things from different angles.
  • In the early stages of the development of eye-hand coordination extended periods of concentrated play can be observed, for example when the baby repeatedly tries to touch an object moving within its reach. Such periods may last up to half an hour at a time without interruption and the task will be mastered within a few days.
  • The baby recognizes individuals early on, even if these individuals appear only infrequently.

12 – 17 Months:

  • The child demonstrates its own will very early on and it is being experienced as being rather demanding.
  • It speaks words at a very early stage (sometimes more sometimes less articulate) including words signifying objects and actions; it changes over to simple sentences of two or three words quickly.
  • It soon begins playing putting things into containers and taking them out again (mostly between the age of 11 – 15 months).
  • It (almost) always knows what it wants; it is (almost) always up to something and directs the adults‘ attention by gestures and words.

18 – 24 Months:

  • The child calls itself by name (18 – 20 months) and soon switches to the personal pronoun „I“ (before or around its 2. birthday).
  • It plays in a meaningful way with dolls or cuddly toys: feeding, taking to bed, handing toys to the dolls, comforting the doll, playing with it and so forth.
  • It starts acting out recently experienced situations with the dolls.
  • The child recognizes pieces of furniture in its dollhouse and begins to position them intentionally and acts as if the dolls were making use of the furniture.
  • Playing with building bricks it doesn’t limit itself to building simple towers but starts constructing more complicated structures like bridges, houses, alignments or circles.
  • The child is able to recognize and name several colours correctly.
  • The child finds its way around the house, the kitchen, the kindergarten much earlier than other children. It understands and memorizes recurring routines. It quickly and actively adopts structures and habits.
  • The child efficiently helps in the household: setting the table, passing things, putting things back in the refrigerator, throwing rubbish away (and into the right rubbish bin) and so forth.
  • It links things correctly to another (as early as 20 – 22 months): Mum’s seat at the table, daddy’s shoes. At kindergarten it knows which adults belong to which group and which shoes belong to which child.
  • The child likes to look at picture books together with an adult (preferably several times a day) and memorizes many details.
  • It will laugh about odd or surprising things like baby shoes dangling from a chandelier.

In its 3 rd year:

  • The child at the beginning of its 3 rd year starts asking questions not only inquiring about what something is but also about what somebody else is doing.
  • It has a very curious mind, it starts asking „Why?“.
  • When something is being explained and the child doesn’t quite understand it poses further questions.
  • If the child has a special gift for language it will long before its 3 rd birthday speak in complex sentence structures using a wide vocabulary.
  • It is interested in foreign languages and dialects when encountering them.
  • It exhibits the ambition to do things accurately and do so on its own.
  • It will be flexible, able to think along several different lines and to adopt alternative strategies when necessary while performing.
  • The child develops the idea of looking ahead in time, the idea of projecting into the future. It wants to know what new situations will bring, it wants to be prepared, it wants to have an overview and an understanding of the situation.

We speak on the assumption that the disposition for giftedness is innate. Which of the listed behaviours will be displayed by a given child may depend on its individual alignment of gifts. Mathematically gifted children, for example, often do not show a significantly accelerated or early development in speech.

As a matter of course there are prerequisites: For example a one-year-old cannot develop its ability to set the table if it does not cross anybody’s mind to actively involve the child in the task – or what is even worse, if first unsolicited attempts of the child are being inhibited because of all kinds of worries. And this does not only pertain to setting the table: This kind of trepidation is always a signal to the child to not be too explorative, to not try things out, to not be too confident about itself.

Also, it is often difficult for parents to recognize their child’s high ability for lack of comparison with other children. I don’t know how often I have heard it said: “For the longest time I thought all children were like this.”

Examples of Children Under the Age of 3 can be found here.

Early extraordinary language proficiency is also described in the article Language Skills of a One Year Old .

Date of publication in German: April 20th, 2010
Translated by Arno Zucknick
Copyright © Hanna Vock, see
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