By Chloe Dorrington, Deputy Head at Cameron Vale School and The Chelsea Nursery.
Recognising that your young child is gifted and exceeding expectations can be an exciting yet daunting time. Whether you have noticed the signs yourself that your child’s behaviour is advanced or it has been pointed out to you by others, naturally as a parent you will be eager to help them make the most out of their abilities and nurture their early interests.
A significant stage in their development and educational journey is the transition to nursery school or pre-prep, with many considerations to take into account when selecting the right school for your gifted child. First and foremost, think about your child’s curiosity and their innate nature to learn, and look for a school that will really nurture those curiosities. A school or nursery that is very child-led in its approach to learning for example, will allow your child to develop along their own trajectory and not just in line with the standard expectations suggested by the Early Years Statutory Framework. Look out for skilled practitioners within that environment who can identify and engage with your child’s teachable moments, enabling them to ensure that your child is making progress and is exposed to things that are developmentally appropriate for them.
It’s also important to remember that a child is often gifted in just one particular area or aspect of their development, and therefore it’s not only about understanding how you can develop that and how the nursery environment can support that but, also about where they are in other aspects of learning and development and what kind of support they might need. For example, is your child highly creative with a vivid imagination but, they are not so well developed personally, socially and emotionally. If that’s something that needs to be nurtured more, what kind of environment would suit them? Can you find a nursery or pre-prep that focuses on developing children’s independence, self-regulation and emotional skills, but also a setting that really understands their creative talent?
Notably, I believe it’s important that the nursery or pre-prep understands your child as a whole and does not solely focus on their talent or area of gift. A setting that is holistic in its approach to development and does not restrict your child within boundaries, instead allowing them to follow their own learning journey, would enable your gifted child to thrive. For example, at The Chelsea Nursery and Cameron Vale School we are very child-led and child-centred in our approach so those young gifted individuals do really well with us because they’re given the time to be curious and their curiosity is supported, stretched and challenged by the teachers and the resources that are available to them.
For toddlers and young children who do show gifted areas, they need to carefully be challenged and stretched, and it’s a fine art of the practitioner or teacher to understand how to nurture their success in their area of expertise whether that’s science, creative arts or music, without pressurising them. When exploring nurseries and pre-preps consider what opportunities they will be given to be stretched and challenged. Children need to be engaged and motivated to show their true selves.
There are a plethora of ways that as a parent you can nurture your child’s gifted abilities and talents at home however, it’s important to remember that age two to five is still very young. My advice is to not get too hung up on the one area that you believe they are gifted in but, provide them with a wide range of experiences to develop them as a whole and to see what might captivate their mind. They may have a specific interest and talent in one thing for now but if you open them up to many different areas, interests and experiences, who knows what they might actually turn out to be motivated by or interested in.
In terms of practical things, make use of the resources available around you. For example, if your child is showing an interest in nature, take the opportunity to explore local nature parks, if it is science that sparks their curiosity a simple activity to do at home would be baking whereby lots of chemical changes happen. Perhaps if they’re very musically talented, explore all genres of music and instruments with them, but also discover what sounds you can make from items around the house, which in turn will also develop their critical thinking skills.
Overall, I firmly believe that throughout your child’s journey it’s important to continue focusing on what we identify as the prime areas of learning; physical development, personal, social and emotional development, and communication and language. Alongside their intellectual development, the foundations of being a rounded person need to be harnessed and nurtured to allow your gifted young child to truly flourish.
About the expert
Chloe Dorrington is Deputy Head at Cameron Vale School and The Chelsea Nursery. To discover more about Cameron Vale School or The Chelsea Nursery visit, www.cameronvaleschool.com or www.cameronvaleschool.com/thechelseanursery