4 signs of a gifted learner

Little girl studying hard
Psychologist professor Joan Freeman, who has worked with gifted and talented children for 35 years, explains how to nurture the development of an exceptional learner.

The old physical milestones of when a child first sits up, crawls, stands up, or walks are no longer seen as firm pointers to future intellectual potential, but they are excellent indicators. Gifted children are just as different from one another as any other group of children. Some may be lively, into everything and very friendly, while others can be shy and prefer to keep to themselves. But here are four strong clues which may indicate that you have a gifted child on your hands:

Lively minds

The most noticeable feature of gifted children is the liveliness of their minds. This comes across in many ways, especially in their delight with words. Even as toddlers they’re usually very quick to spot tiny differences and catch on to unusual associations between ideas.


Gifted little ones use their radar brains to seek and absorb information, sometimes catching your meaning before you’ve reached the end of your sentence. They copy other people’s behaviour and learn fast from the experience. Sometimes they seem quite grown up, but genuine maturity will come later.

Ability to learn

A keen appetite for learning marks out the gifted, so that when they’re given the chance they grab it. As they get older, their knowledge often becomes wider and deeper than that of other children of the same age so they seem to be even more intelligent. Parents wonder where clever children get all their knowledge from. They seem to absorb it from everywhere – television, people’s conversations, the air!


The clever child takes pride in what they can do. Even in their first few days at proper school, they’re usually outstandingly independent and competent, though some get a shock when they find all the others working at a very much lower level. Some develop special interests even at nursery school, though these might change. By the time they reach primary school, they may be really beginning to know their way around a subject.

Supporting your gifted child

Emotionally, the evidence shows that gifted and talented children are normal. In fact, they need to be strong because they face their own special challenges, particularly of high expectations and pressure to achieve. It is complete acceptance which builds up any child’s good feeling about themselves. And it’s the family that provides the foundations of future gifts.

How to Raise a Bright Child by Professor Joan Freeman is published by Vermilion.