What are the signs of intelligence in toddlers?

Toddlerhood is an incredible, whirlwind period of a child’s life, full of fascinating milestones and heart-melting moments. 

As they transition from babbling babies to more independent, expressive, and curious beings, toddlers are busy exploring their world and discovering their place in it. 

And you know what? Even at this early stage, you can already see glimpses of their intelligence!

The way they navigate their expanding world, how they problem-solve, communicate, express curiosity, and engage with others…these are all perfect avenues for insights into their minds. 

As an early childhood teacher, I’d love to share with you the early signs of intelligence in toddlers that you can spot in their day-to-day routines. Let’s dive in!

1) Problem-solving skills

The first sign is excellent problem-solving skills. Kids with a high intellect often excel at figuring things out. 

You can easily determine a child’s level of problem-solving skills through toys like shape sorters, stacking blocks, and giant puzzles. 

An intelligent toddler will figure out how to make things work or fit together. And even if they can’t get it right away, they have the ability to persist and keep working at it. 

That said, don’t be too quick to despair if your toddler seems more interested in eating the blocks than sorting them! Children all have their unique timelines. Who knows, you might just have a future gourmet chef in the making!

Remember, intelligence isn’t always about puzzle-solving, it shows up in many different ways! This leads me to my next point…

2) Advanced vocabulary

You know those moments when your toddler uses a word that leaves you blinking in surprise? That’s a golden sign of high intellect. 

You’d be surprised to find just how quickly toddlers learn language. They might not even have the motor skills to pronounce the words correctly, but they understand the context. Amazing, isn’t it? 

My heart still warms when I think about my student, little Theo, who looked up from his dinosaur book one day and asked about the ‘extinct’ creatures. Where did he learn that word? I wondered, thoroughly impressed.

Not all toddlers will be using words like ‘extinct’, of course, and that’s perfectly okay. Remember, vocabulary development varies widely, and kids are fantastic at learning languages in their own time.

And even if your child isn’t a chatterbox, they may just be absorbing everything – waiting for the perfect moment to amaze you with their word wisdom!

3) Curiosity

signs of intelligence in toddlers 1 What are the signs of intelligence in toddlers?

Next up is curiosity. I’ve noticed that toddlers who ask a lot of questions, like “Why is the sky blue?” or “Where do birds sleep?” show signs of being intelligent. 

They’re interested in understanding the world around them and are not afraid to ask for information. It can be exhausting, yes – imagine having to answer a never-ending string of questions! 

But the payback is huge. Being patient and supporting their curiosity is a way to nurture their love of learning. 

Plus, it makes for some truly out-of-this-world conversations! 

4) Good memory

Now, let’s talk about memory. Does your child remember things that happened weeks or even months ago? Or perhaps they can recount a story you’ve read to them once, almost word-for-word? 

There’s a good chance you’ve got a smart kid on your hands. 

Children are generally good at remembering things, but when your little one shows an unusually keen memory, it’s quite extraordinary. 

And a great way to develop this is by reading together, making up stories, and talking about past events. This can turn into a fun, bonding activity while fostering their memory skills.

5) Early reading or writing skills

Speaking of reading together, another sign of intelligence in toddlers is early literacy skills. 

Do you ever catch your child pretending to read a book or attempting to write letters or their own name? It’s such a delightful sight! 

But it’s more than just cuteness overload. According to a study, the earlier a child reads and writes, the more intelligent they are. It’s a definite sign of their higher IQ. 

It’s important not to push them, though. Encourage their interest, but remember that all children develop at their own pace. At this stage, the goal is to foster a love of reading and writing, not perfection. 

It’s all about the joy in their eyes when they hold up their scribbled piece of paper and proudly proclaim, “Look! I wrote my name!”

6) Focus and attention to detail

This is actually connected to the previous point and is one of the main reasons why smart kids demonstrate their literacy skills early. 

Because they are able to focus on an activity for a considerable amount of time, intelligent toddlers can stay with a task longer. 

They also have greater attention to detail, which again, comes in handy, as they learn the basics of alphabet and phonemic awareness. 

On top of that, noticing details makes the world even more fascinating for them, which feeds their insatiable curiosity!

7) Imaginative play

signs of intelligence in toddlers 1 What are the signs of intelligence in toddlers?

Another way to spot an intelligent toddler is to look at their level of imaginative play. Do they create complex, imaginative scenarios with their toys? 

This goes beyond typical ‘let’s pretend’ games. Highly intelligent children often come up with intricate storylines and characters. 

These scenarios are not just play. They are a creative expression of your child’s understanding and interpretation of the world around them. 

Imaginative play is the perfect opportunity to see your child’s:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • Ability to follow directions
  • Expressive and receptive language
  • Social skills
  • Emotional management

That means it doesn’t just give you an idea of your child’s IQ, but also their EQ! 

Speaking of which…

8) Sensitivity

When we talk about intelligence, EQ is much less included in the discussion. But it’s actually a crucial component of intelligence. 

That’s why highly intelligent children tend to be more sensitive and aware of their surroundings and the feelings of others.

I once had a student in my toddler class who would often notice when a classmate was upset before anyone else did and would try to comfort them. This empathy and emotional intelligence is indeed a powerful form of intelligence.

Take note, sensitivity can also mean that your child might become overwhelmed easily. They might need extra comfort and reassurance, especially in unfamiliar or noisy environments.

It’s a delicate balance, but understanding their sensitivity can help you guide them through these experiences.

9) Better balance and coordination

Better balance and coordination might not be traditionally linked to intelligence, but if you look at a study on gifted children, you’ll find that early motor skills is a sign of it. 

Gifted children tend to develop motor skills early and tend to solve puzzles and Lego tasks faster than other kids. 

Their advanced motor skills also mean that they may be adept at exploring their environment, which can lead to enriched learning experiences. 

They might climb, run, or navigate obstacles with more confidence, leading to enhanced physical experiences and interactions with their surroundings.

10) Sense of humor

Lastly, we get to something I really love seeing in children, especially in toddlers – a fantastic sense of humor. 

You know why? Because it tells me that the child is witty and intelligent! 

See, understanding humor requires cognitive skills and a high level of social understanding, both of which are indicators of real smarts. 

So, if you’ve got a toddler who plays pranks on you, unleashes witty one-liners, or makes funny faces, don’t get exasperated. Cherish them and enjoy the ride!

Final thoughts

Navigating through the intriguing journey of toddlerhood is an adventure full of surprises and milestones. As an early childhood teacher, witnessing the diverse ways in which children express their intelligence is both a privilege and a constant source of fascination.

While we’ve explored ten potential signs of intelligence in toddlers – from problem-solving skills to a great sense of humor – it’s important to remember that every child is unique, expressing their intelligence in their own distinctive way. 

Some might be word wizards, others might be budding engineers, and some might simply be the empathetic friend everyone turns to.

The beautiful part of this journey is that there’s no set timeline, no strict path that your toddler must adhere to. So, as we watch these tiny tots growing and learning, let’s celebrate their individual strengths and victories, big or small.

Encourage their curiosity, nourish their interests, and provide them with plenty of opportunities to learn and explore. In the grand scheme of things, what matters most is that our children are developing at their own pace, in an environment filled with love, support, and fun!

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Picture of Tina Fey

Tina Fey

I've ridden the rails, gone off track and lost my train of thought. I'm writing for Ideapod to try and find it again. Hope you enjoy the journey with me.

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