They are strong verbal skills, intense curiosity and an unusually good memory. The Survival Guide for Parents of Gifted Kids by Sally Yahnke Walker, Ph.D. (see? I do look at other books besides my oft-quoted ones!), discusses these succinctly and with great examples. This was my first book on "gifted" and it's a wonderful introduction for people trying to figure it all out. I bought it when Oldest was 3.
She says the following about these three traits:
1. Strong Verbal Skills.
If your child is like most gifted kids, she probably possesses a motor mouth that rarely shuts down. These kids also tend to have sophisticated vocabularies that sometimes alienate them from their peers who don't understand the big words. . . . Bright children not only hear and understand big words, they can also apply them in the correct context. Page 49.2. Intense Curiosity.
Gifted kids are hungry for knowledge. They are trying to find information about their world. Some of them want to know all about everything. They can be like grasshoppers, jumping from subject to subject, interest to interest. Other gifted kids want to know about one specific topic at a time. They become the resident experts on that topic. Their questions can be endless. From the minute they wake up until they collapse, their minds are at work, trying to make sense of their world. Even at lights out, their questions continue. You'll notice this even when they're very young. More than one parent has put it this way: "My child is like a sponge, trying to soak up everything." Pages 45-46.3. Unusually Good Memory.
Gifted and talented kids generally have excellent memories, which they frequently put to good use by reminding their parents of things they may have forgotten (or wished to forget). Page 48.
I include these three in one post because I find them inter-related. Their descriptions in the book are all similar. Kids with a good memory or intense curiosity tend to be really verbal about it.
So how do these traits apply in our house? In an inter-connected, hand in hand way. :)
Strong Verbal. A lot of places you read talk about this trait as an either/or trait. Either your child starts talking extraordinarily early and at a very high level, or your child may not speak at all until one day he starts speaking in full sentences.
We have one of each in our house. Oldest had less than 6 words at 18 months of age. By 21 months, however, she was speaking in 6-8 word sentences. Youngest's speech development was much more consistent, but still rapid. At her two year appointment, while the nurse was asking this question:
"Does she speak in at least 2 word combinations that you can understand?"