10 non-obvious signs your child is highly intelligent

Most parents think the world of their children.

You’ll run into parents cooing at their toddlers, telling you how little Jackson can already read Dante’s Inferno in three languages (he’s four).

Gauging a child’s intelligence at a young age can be tricky.

Many children can be gifted but refrain from showing these abilities due to the complex thought patterns often associated with heightened intelligence such as autism.

This can mean that they’re less likely to speak up in class or engage with their peers, making assessing their intelligence more difficult.

And what’s even more challenging is that children who are highly intelligent yet struggle with the set of issues that being gifted brings need that extra bit of support and encouragement from their parents.

Because let’s face it, being smart at school is still unfortunately often mislabelled as nerdy. 

Or geeky.

On top of that, intelligence needs nurturing. 

The earlier high intelligence is identified, the more likely your child is to soar.

So what sort of signs of high intelligence should you be looking out for?

1) They’re curious

You know that awful stage kids go through where they just question literally everything?

Often, quite inappropriately so, and in front of the people in question.

Why is that lady so fat?

Why do you have so many funny lines on your face?

Why does grandpa smell bad?

For intelligent children, that stage never stops.

Admittedly, the questions broaden in depth and perspective. 

They’re curious about the world and are often unsatisfied by simple answers.

You’ll find yourself having to do research to be able to accurately explain and meet their need to understand.

2) They’re quick learners

This one’s a no-brainer, but highly intelligent children tend to pick up new ideas and practices far quicker than their peers.

You won’t have to explain things to them twice; they’re often the first to learn to read and have no trouble understanding new topics and concepts.

So no, they probably don’t need your help with their math homework.

3) They see things differently

Whilst highly intelligent children are quick learners, they often like to do things their own way.

Say for instance your child is given a very simple math problem to solve.

Whilst every other student takes the simple route to solving the question, a gifted child will often see things differently – leading them to the correct result, but having used a unique way to solve the question.

This can lead to many difficulties in schools where teachers penalize children who think differently.

But thinking outside of the box and problem-solving with unique methods is a key sign of high intelligence.

4) They have an excellent memory

Being able to retain information is a big part of being able to understand and process.

Thus, highly intelligent children tend to have an excellent memory. 

If your child is quickly picking up on new words and is surprising you by reminding you of tasks or events even you’ve forgotten, chances are they benefit from these types of skills.

Say you’re at the grocery store and are about to pay, and you feel a little tug on your hand.

“Mommy, didn’t you say you wanted to buy hummus yesterday?”

This ability to easily memorize and retain information then feeds into their ability to learn things quickly.

Although watch out– kids with good memory skills have also been linked to being better liars!

5) They’re bursting with ideas

Does your child love immersing themselves in imaginary worlds?

This might translate into games, stories, or theatre performances which you get the pleasure of watching.

Highly intelligent children have an extensive imagination and are often highly creative, which leads them to develop abstract and complex ideas.

6) They can be prone to perfectionism

As gifted children get older, they can begin to set their own standards pretty high when it comes to getting perfect grades.

It’s estimated that 20% of gifted children struggle with perfectionism

Whilst pursuing realistic goals and finding motivation is a great trait to have, perfectionism can also be incredibly detrimental.

So if you notice your child beating themselves up about not doing something perfectly, this can be a warning sign of underlying perfectionism.

Some of the more negative effects can include feeling stressed and overwhelmed when a target is not met, or generally beginning to experience anxiety with the constant desire to be perfect.

7) They’re funny

Sometimes, kids are funny.

Usually, it’s unintentionally so.

But for the highly intelligent children out there, they’re able to understand and use humor from an early age.

Being able to make you chuckle through using wit and cleverness is often a sign that your child has mastered complex thought processes.

They might hit you up with puns or entertaining jokes you would have never thought of yourself, and will have you in fits of giggles.

8) They struggle with sleep

With high intelligence comes a mind that’s often bursting with thoughts that never stop.

This can mean bedtimes are a challenge. 

More so than your average youngster who wages a war when it comes to getting into bed every night.

And when your child does finally get into bed, you’ll often find them traipsing miserably to your room complaining about how they can’t sleep.

Mild insomnia or general difficulties when it comes to settling down and sleeping can all be signs of highly intelligent children (who will likely go on to become nocturnal adults!)

9) They have a big vocabulary

“It’s absolutely preposterous that Charlie stole my ice cream”

Yes, you guessed it. Young children using ‘big words’ and coming up with an elaborate and complex vocabulary is a sign of a gifted and intelligent child.

You might wonder where they’re getting all these words from.

On top of that, if they’re learning these complex words through reading, don’t be too surprised if they start trying to incorporate the words into speech but then mispronounce them. 

This is a sign that they’ve read something somewhere and comprehend the words instead of just mimicking what they’ve heard someone say without understanding the meaning.

10) Ability to focus

Gifted and intelligent children can often focus on projects or problems for far longer than their peers.

Your average pre-schooler might tire of homework and start wriggling around restlessly.

But if you notice your child’s ability to sit down and immerse themselves in a task at hand until completion without getting distracted or bored, it’s likely they do have heightened cognitive abilities.


High intelligence and giftedness looks different in everyone.

The same counts for your kids.

They might meet some of these boxes and not others. That doesn’t mean that they’re any more or less intelligent. 

Additionally, having a high IQ doesn’t necessarily mean that your child isn’t gifted in other ways. 

Personality and character takes time to develop, so avoid rushing them or pushing them into anything that they seem unwilling to engage with.

But if you do think that the above signs relate to your child, the best thing you can do is to start working out ways in which you can support their learning and encourage their development.

At the same time, it’s also important that you make sure to avoid putting pressure on them to meet unrealistic standards of perfectionism. 

Perfectionism can lead to many detrimental effects such as negative self-worth when they do encounter failure or setbacks (as they no doubt will) and are unable to process the fact that they won’t be able to do everything perfectly.

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