Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dealing with your child's "intelligence".

     Okay, to be clear, I do not think my 3 year old son is a genius.  On the other hand, my wife and I have never had him tested, (nor do we plan to) and we don't know the criteria for having a potentially gifted child.  I believe that all children his age have a unique ability or talent.   For instance, a child may have a good grasp of language or possess some type of reading ability at the age of three.  I've even seen an infomercial for a product that helps parents teach their babies to read.  By the way, my son cannot read yet.  Parents may also witness other qualities in their children that lead them to believe that their child is different from the norm.  Perhaps their children possess an unusual or vivid imagination or asks a lot of questions.   Maybe they possess fine motor skills such as writing or the ability to tie their shoes at a very young age.  Again, aside from asking a lot of questions,  my son does not strongly exhibit any of these abilities.   So what has he done and what does he do that I find to be fascinating?  He has a very uncanny memory.  Now, I know that is nothing so fascinating unto itself, but here's what his ability has allowed him to do.
     My wife and I bought a puzzle-map of the USA for my daughter when she was five.  The idea was to have her learn the names and location of all 50 states in a fun and interactive environment.  As it turned out, she did have initial interest and learned a bit about the country in which she lives.  My son, who was about 2 1/2 at the time, was also getting involved and started learning how to put the puzzle together and learn all 50 states.  He'd put it together every day with the help of my wife or myself.  We would read the names of the states as we were putting them in place.  Within a month, he could put the puzzle together by himself and knew all the state names and locations and how to say them.  To this day, you can point to any state on the map or ask him where a particular state is located on the map, and he can point it out.  Since then, he's developed a love for puzzles and he has built up quite a puzzle collection.   He can now complete 75-100 piece puzzles relatively easily.
     One puzzle we gave him last year was a 96 piece dinosaur puzzle ball.  When completed, the shape is naturally round.  On the back of each piece is a number, 1 through 96.  This is so you can put the puzzle together by going in number order instead of trying to look at the pictures.  At first he needed assistance, but eventually he was able to put the puzzle together himself.  What my wife and I did not know, and discovered quite by accident, is that while he was putting the puzzle together, he was memorizing each piece and its corresponding number.  He would be able to look at the picture side and tell you the number on the other side for each and every piece.  He now has two puzzles like this, the other is a map of the world, also 96 pieces.  It took him a few weeks to memorize all the pieces, but he can do the same as with his dinosaur puzzle.  In fact, if you put both of the puzzles together and mixed them up, he could probably tell you the number of each piece just by looking at the picture on the front of the piece.   That's 192 little  pictures that he has memorized in his head.  This may not amaze you, but I don't think I can do that.
     As far as classifying this as a sign of genius, I'm not so sure.  I do think it's a pretty impressive feat, though.  As a parent,  I want to nurture my children's talents and abilities, not exploit them.  Yes, I do get a kick out of it when my son displays this talent and puts on a show in front of friends and family, and yes, I love to see their faces when they see what he can do.  For now, I hope that this is something that he can use to help himself as he continues to grow and learn.  He's just your everyday three year old boy...with an extremely good memory.    

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