Characteristics of Gifted Children

Parents who usually the first to recognise that their child is bright for his or her age, and then aren’t sure what to do next - especially as “bright” is not necessarily the same as “gifted.” Here the National Association for Gifted Children helps to explain the characteristics of gifted children.

There are many checklists of gifted characteristics. In general they contain several common elements. Compared to other children your child’s age, how many of these fit your child?

  • Reasons well and learn rapidly
  • Talked early and has extensive vocabulary
  • Early or avid reader
  • Asks lots of questions and learns more quickly than others
  • Has a very retentive memory
  • Is extremely curious and can concentrate for long periods on subjects of interest
  • Perseverant in their interests
  • Has a wide general knowledge and interest in the world
  • Enjoys problem-solving, often missing out the intermediate stages in an argument and making original connections
  • Has an unusual and vivid imagination
  • Is intense and shows strong feelings and opinions
  • Concerned with justice and fairness
  • Has an odd sense of humour
  • Sets high standards and is a perfectionist
  • Loses interest when asked to do more of the same
  • Is sensitive (feelings hurt easily)
  • Shows compassion and is morally sensitive
  • Has a high degree of energy
  • Prefers older companions or adults
  • Judgement mature for age at times
  • Is a keen observer
  • Is highly creative
  • Tends to question authority
  • Has facility with numbers
  • Extremely good at jigsaw puzzles

No one will show all these characteristics, but very bright children will fit a significant number of them.

Some parents find it difficult to understand the difference between a bright child, and a gifted child.

The following table hopefully will show how to differentiate between the two

Bright child Gifted child
Knows the answers Asks the questions
Is interested Is extremely curious
Pays attention Gets involved physically and mentally
Has good ideas Has unusual “silly” ideas
Works hard Plays around, yet tests well
Answers the question Questions the answers
In the “top” group Beyond any group
Listens with interest Shows strong feelings and opinions
Learns with ease Already knows
Needs 6-8 repetitions to master a concept Needs 1-2 repetitions to master a concept
Understands ideas Constructs abstract theories
Enjoys peer group Prefers the company of adults or older children
Grasps meaning Draws inferences
Completes assignments Initiates projects
Is receptive Is intense
Copies accurately Creates a new design
Enjoys school Enjoys learning
Absorbs information Applies/manipulates information
Is a good technician Is an inventor
Good at memorising Good at guessing
Enjoys straight forward sequential presentation Thrives on complexity
Is alert Is keenly observant
Is pleased with own work Is highly self-critical

What can parents and teachers do for the gifted child?

Gifted children often need more support than others, but this does not necessarily mean that they need more structured activities. Sometimes it means they need more freedom and a little more guidance instead.

More able children can be better supported by giving them:

  • Space to make their own contributions in situations that are open ended
  • The opportunity to take risks with the possibility of failure in non-threatening and well-organised situations
  • Contact with other people like them
  • A share of the teacher’s time that is fair, focused and appropriate to their needs
  • Activities that require them to spend a balance of time both working with urgency and reflecting quietly on their work
  • Questioning structured to employ their higher-order thinking skills with similar answers to their questions
  • Minimal instruction when possible, allowing them to use initiative and problem solving skills
  • Opportunities to develop their work in directions they have chosen themselves
  • Encouragement to use a range of alternative methods and approaches and organisational and presentation techniques
  • Work set in ways that involve challenging creativity and imagination
  • Schemes of work that incorporate starting points for work sometimes with clear steps and sometimes open-ended
  • An appreciation that social and emotional maturity does not always equate with intellectual ability – asynchronous development
  • A range of teaching and learning styles – multiple intelligences
  • Time created to extend, enrich and expand – not to repeat
  • A range of differentiation and enrichment activities and strategies
  • The opportunity and time to research for themselves

Related links

Living with a gifted child: Having a gifted child is rewarding, exasperating and very hard work. Elaine Hook - herself a teacher - tells us the story of bringing up her daughter, Sophie...

Gifted children and friendships – why don’t I fit in? Making friends can be hard at any age. But for gifted children - who don't always fit in easily - they can be harder than ever. Elaine Hook from the National Association of Gifted Children, and herself the mother of a gifted child, explains more....

Why girls bully differently - and what you can do about it: Social exclusion - “my friends won’t play with me” - is one of the most common ways for girls to bully. And although it could be seen as just a typical part of growing up, it can lead to serious problems. So what can parents do?

Best homework websites: The Supernanny team has found the best online learning resources to help your child with his homework.

Find out more

NAGC (the National Association for Gifted Children) is the UK's foremost membership charity that deals with all aspects of giftedness in children. Its Helpline can be contacted on: 0845 450 0221.

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