5 Characteristics of a Gifted Baby

Teenage girl holding baby boy, close up.
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A common misconception about gifted children is that their giftedness does not become apparent until after they start school. Gifted traits can potentially be recognized in toddlers and even babies if you know the signs.

They may include exaggerated characteristics like:

  • Constant stimulation-seeking while awake
  • Earlier ability to mimic sounds than other babies
  • Extreme alertness or always looking around
  • Hypersensitivity to sounds, smells, textures, and tastes as well as an unusually vigorous reaction to unpleasant ones (characteristic of the Dabrowski's supersensitivities)
  • Lower sleep needs than other babies

While a baby does not need to have all of these traits, most gifted children will display more than one.

It's important to note that research on gifted infants is quite limited. While these signs may suggest giftedness in childhood, they are not definitive indicators that your child will be gifted if they display these traits. If you seem to have a precious baby, encourage their brain development and watch for signs of giftedness as they continue to grow.

Need for Mental Stimulation

A key sign of possible giftedness in infants is the need for mental stimulation. In fact, it is not unusual for gifted babies to get fussy and even start to cry if they aren't provided constant stimulus.

Parents can often become frustrated when their baby has been fed and changed but will neither stop crying nor fussing. While some people may regard this as a personality trait, declaring the child either "fussy" or "demanding," it could very well be that the baby has become frustrated with the absence of stimulation.

Look at it this way: infants are unable to move on their own and can only see what is immediately in front of them. In some cases, there may only be a blank ceiling. Even if you install a mobile over the crib, the invariability of the image may not provide enough stimulation for a gifted child who craves newness and discovery.

How to Tell If a Baby Is Gifted

While there are no hard and fast rules for identifying giftedness in babies, there are certain characteristics to watch out for.

You can often tell that a baby is gifted when a new sound or song has an immediate calming effect. Over time, however, the same song or sound may become less effective or stop working altogether. The speed by which this occurs is often indicative of giftedness.

At other times, a baby will remain calm if it is turned to face different directions or is provided something new to look at. Parents of gifted children will often note that, when their kids were babies, they would have to move them as often as every 20 minutes to keep them from crying.

Research on Giftedness

A number of studies have tried to determine whether certain infant characteristics are indicative of giftedness. Many have focused on the concepts of habituation, in which a baby becomes less responsive to familiar stimuli, and preference for novelty, in which a baby becomes more responsive to new stimuli.

One such study, considered foundational in giftedness research, found that certain babies became habituated to new stimulus faster than others, suggesting that they absorbed and retained sensory information in a different way. The babies also showed a greater preference for unfamiliar stimulus as opposed to those who were drawn to the familiar.

On the flip side, the same babies regarded new and novel stimulus for longer periods of time than others who either shifted their focus or were non-specific in their response. This further suggests that the babies had a greater capacity to translate sensations into cognition (the mental process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses).

In their final assessment, the researchers reported that by the time these children were eight, they tested as gifted on standard IQ tests.

A Word From Verywell

While none of this should suggest that infant fussiness is an inherent sign of giftedness, it may reframe how we regard babies who are less calm or more "demanding" than others. In the end, giftedness may be about more than just an enriching home environment; it may be an inborn trait that we need to actively identify, nurture, and support.

2 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Vaivre-Douret L. Developmental and Cognitive Characteristics of “High-Level Potentialities” (Highly Gifted) ChildrenInt J Pediatr. 2011;2011:420297.  doi: 10.1155/2011/420297

  2. Steiner HH, Carr M. Cognitive Development in Gifted Children: Toward a More Precise Understanding of Emerging Differences in IntelligenceEducational Psychology Review. 2003;15(3):215-246. doi: 10.1023/A:1024636317011

Additional Reading
  • Mather, E. "Novelty, attention, and challenges for developmental psychology." Front Psychol. 2013; 4:491. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00491.
  • Steiner, H. and Carr, M. "Cognitive Development in Gifted Children: Toward a More Precise Understanding of Emerging Differences in Intelligence." Edu Psychol Rev. 2003; 15:215-46. DOI: 10.1023/A:1024636317011.

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.