9 surprising signs your baby is highly intelligent

As parents, we want to have healthy and happy babies. But if we were to ask for an added bonus, having smart bubbas certainly tops the list. 

So we look for the obvious signs: 

Are they babbling, talking, crawling, or walking earlier than their peers? Whether we admit it or not, we have made this comparison at least once in our parenting journey.

But what if I told you there is more to smart babies than them fast-tracking through their milestones?

Let me back up this claim by sharing these 9 surprising signs your baby is highly intelligent:

1) They’re an energizer bunny

This heading might already trigger exhaustion for parents, but hear me out:

Studies show that increased activity in little ones helps boost their executive functions. These are mental skills that help them plan, focus, and solve problems. 

So, if your little one is a bundle of energy, enjoy it even if it means draining yours. After all, it could indicate your baby’s strong thinking skills

But before we get too excited, it’s also worth noting that:

Excessively high activity levels may also be symptoms of behavioral issues, like ADHD. 

If you’re concerned about your baby’s unusual activity levels, it’s always a good idea to see your family doctor or pediatrician.

2) They’re extremely curious

We can’t wait for our babies to talk, but when they finally do, we sometimes get frustrated by the endless “whys” and “hows.” Am I right, or am I right?

But you know what? These questions are simply indications of their curiosity. 

Pre-talking, signs of a curious baby can be: 

Reaching for objects, intently tracking objects and movements, and extended gazing at new things or people. 

But how does their curiosity relate to their brilliance?

An exciting and relatively new research from John Hopkins University suggests that the curiosity of babies may be a sign of their future intelligence. 

Although more follow-up studies are in the works, the current study already implies that curious babies may be the brightest learners in the future.

Keep that in mind the next time you feel like giving up on your little one’s gazillion of questions. 

3) They’re little empaths

Does your little munchkin cry when other babies cry? Do their facial expressions show concern when someone else is upset?

Also, have you ever noticed them offering a toy or their security blanket to an upset child (and sometimes even adults)? Or maybe you’ve seen them hug or pat someone who’s crying?

All these actions are signs of empathy. They’re indicators of your precious one developing valuable social skills and possibly intelligence, as observed in a study about how empathy develops in young children.

If your baby is showing early signs of understanding the feelings of others, give yourself a pat on the back for raising a kind-hearted, clever soul! 

4) They have a healthy sense of humor at a very early age

I know what you’re thinking:

How can you possibly tell when a baby has a sense of humor?

Believe it or not, it’s easy. Here’s how:

They easily laugh when you make funny faces or sounds or even while playing peek-a-boo. 

Oh, and they might laugh at their own silly antics, too. Like when they drop objects from their chair, watch you pick it up, only for them to do it over and over again!

This brings me to an interesting research on humor in kids:

Apparently, when babies laugh at an early age, this could be a display of their advanced thinking skills.

That just put a smile on your face, didn’t it?

5) They’re both a lefty and a righty 

If you’re sitting there wondering why your baby doesn’t seem to favor one hand over the other, you’d be pleased to know that this might mean your little bundle of joy is a smart one.

A notable study on gifted children found that almost 49% of the high-IQ babies they tested were ambidextrous at a certain developmental phase. 

It’s important to note that these kids eventually chose a dominant hand as they grew older.

Why am I emphasizing this? 

Because there’s also a study that links ambidexterity to some learning difficulties and ADHD in children and adolescents:

This study warns that if older kids are still ambidextrous and showing learning or behavioral issues, it might be a cause for concern.

What does this mean to you as a parent?

Whether it’s a sign of intelligence or something that requires your pediatrician’s attention, ambidexterity is something to watch as your child grows.

6) They focus like a hawk 

Untitled design 22 9 surprising signs your baby is highly intelligent

Does your baby spend several minutes intently looking at the mobile hanging over their crib?

Do they listen closely and attentively when you read them a story?

If you can relate to these scenarios, consider yourself a lucky one. These aren’t just signs of a well-behaved baby but also indicate that your little one has a long attention span.

Why does this matter?

According to Davidson Institute, a non-profit organization supporting profoundly gifted young people, a study on profoundly gifted children revealed that 94% of them had long attention spans as infants.

So if your baby loves focusing on things, you can now wear the badge of parent to an adorable and intelligent little human!

7) Their birth weight was in the higher range

Believe it or not, your baby’s birth weight might be related to their intelligence. 

Yep, a study that followed kids born between 1959 and 1961 found that those with higher birth weights scored higher on their IQ tests throughout adulthood.

So, if you popped out a heavy one at birth, you may just have yourself a weighty genius right there!

But let’s not jump ahead:

It’s worth mentioning that although this study was published relatively recently (2017), the babies in question were born over 60 years ago. 

Needless to say, a lot has changed since then regarding prenatal care, genetics, and the environment

So, if you’re a soon-to-be-mum, don’t go gobbling down extra servings to beef up your unborn kiddo’s weight. 

And if you’re already a parent to a baby whose birthweight was low or average, it doesn’t eliminate them from being smart, and vice versa. 

8) They have imaginary playmates 

All children engage in pretend play, creating imaginary scenarios, dressing up, and role-playing. 

On some days, they will be doctors healing sick stuffed toys. On other days they’re princesses in imaginary kingdoms. And before you know it, they’re firefighters battling a feisty dragon.

But not all children have imaginary friends who they often talk to. While it may be cute and (admittedly) sometimes borderline scary, that imaginary friend could be a sign of your rugrat’s real intelligence.

Remember that study on genius kids we mentioned earlier? An impressive 93.4% of the kids studied had vivid imagination and 37% had imaginary friends in their infancy/toddler years!

But wait, there’s more:

They don’t necessarily have to be “friends” either. They can be imaginary anything. Like Albert Einstein for example:

Did you know that he used to chase imaginary beams of light as a child? He’s also believed to have imagined moving trains and flashes of light, which helped him later in his discoveries in physics.

So don’t be too quick to dismiss your tiny tot’s “fairy friends” because they might be helping you nurture the next baby Einstein.

9) They wake up multiple times through the night

Sleepless nights – loads of them – are every mother and father’s initiation into parenting life

I wish I had found this out during my sleep-deprived-mom days, but if you’re in that stage now, let me give you a bit of encouragement:

Experts now believe that babies who don’t sleep through the night may have better mental health and higher levels of intelligence than their peers.

That’s according to Prof Peter Fleming, an infant health and development psychology expert.

And that’s not just his expert opinion that’s saying that. This claim is backed by the research on the high-IQ kids we’ve already touched on earlier. 

You’d be amazed to know that 50% of the parents of the children in that study reported that their babies slept less than others their age.

I know it’s exhausting, but the next time you look at yourself in the mirror – tired eyes and all – smile and affirm to yourself:

These dark circles are my ‘Parent of a Whiz Kid’ tattoo, and they’re beautiful!

You don’t just birth a genius, you raise one!

There you have it, the not-so-obvious signs your little one might just be a prodigy. 

If your baby shows any of these signs, you might have to make space in your home for a feature wall of future diplomas and certificates. 

But let’s get one thing straight:

If you’re sitting there thinking, “My baby hasn’t done any of these” – that’s no reason to worry!

No sign or list can dictate your child’s capacity for greatness. 

Remember that intelligence isn’t just about nature.

Your nurturing love and attention are just as crucial as any gene when it comes to bringing out your child’s smarts.

Picture of Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah Piluden-Natu-El

Sarah is a full-time mum, wife, and nurse on hiatus turned freelance writer. She is on a journey of diving deeper into life through life itself and uses her writing to share the lessons learned along the way. When not on her computer, she enjoys time with her family strolling along the Gold Coast's stunning beaches and captivating hinterland.

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