Common Traits and Characteristics of Gifted Children

Gifted youth have distinct cognitive and social features

Young girl doing a puzzle

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What are the traits and characteristics that make gifted children stand out from their peers? Identifying these unique cognitive, social, emotional and linguistic traits isn't necessarily difficult. In fact, to the trained eye, it can be fairly easy to spot a gifted child. Even to the not-so-trained eye of a parent, it's easy to notice that a child is not quite like other children.

Still, parents often question what these differences mean. They know their child is smart, but could she actually be gifted? Reviewing this checklist of common characteristics found in gifted children is a quick first step parents can use to determine whether a child is gifted. If a child has many of these traits, you should consult her teacher or school administrator about getting testing done to determine if your child is gifted.

Such testing may not be as reliable in young children, so parents of small children, such as toddlers, can review the list of common traits found in young gifted children.

Cognitive Traits That Signal Giftedness

Is your child very observant, extremely curious or prone to having intense interests? Then, he might be gifted. Think about whether your child notices things that fellow children, or even adults, would overlook. That's a sign of being observant. And if your child annoys you by constantly peppering you with questions about everything from whey he has to eat a particular meal to why there's war in the world, you might have a gifted kid on your hands.

Consider how passionate your child is about his interests as well. When he gets a new hobby can he spend hours on it? Does he seem to think or talk of nothing else? This indicates intense interest.

Other cognitive traits that make gifted children stand out include having an excellent memory, long attention span, excellent reasoning skills and well-developed powers of abstraction, conceptualization, and synthesis.

Your child may also be able to quickly and easily see relationships between ideas, objects or facts and have fluent and flexible thinking. Gifted children's thinking tends to be elaborate and original, and they have excellent problem-solving skills. They learn concepts quickly and with less practice and repetition than their peers need.

And if your child has an unusual or vivid imagination that sometimes lands him in hot water, consider that another sign of giftedness.

Social and Emotional Traits

Gifted children stand out from their peers by developing interests in philosophical and social issues. They are also very sensitive, both emotionally and physically. They may cry over things that other children shrug off or complain about tags in their clothes or the seams in their socks irritating their skin.

In addition, gifted children exhibit deep concern about fairness and injustice. They tend to be perfectionistic, energetic and have a well-developed, if not quirky, sense of humor. They are usually intrinsically motivated, meaning they set goals and challenges for themselves rather than to get the approval of others. While they may relate well to parents, teachers, and other adults, they also question authority out of curiosity or when they believe an injustice has occurred.

Language Traits

The language traits of gifted children set them apart as well. They tend to have extensive vocabularies and may read earlier than their peers. Even if they read at the standard age, they tend to read rapidly and widely. They also love to ask "what if" questions.

Additional Traits of Gifted Children

The gifted child enjoys learning new things. She enjoys the intellectual activity and displays intellectual playfulness. She'll likely prefer books and magazines meant for older children and adopt a skeptical, critical and evaluative attitude. Gifted children tend to have ​asynchronous development, meaning they may be mentally very astute but emotionally react to situations like a child their age, or even younger, would.

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  1. National Association for Gifted Children. Common Characteristics of Gifted Individuals.