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What is considered precocious?


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A thread on the high school board, left me wondering what is considered precocious?

I am looking for general opinions here. What would you consider precocious? Is it having a certain IQ or test scores. Or is it doing something early, like reading. Is a child precocious if they are reading at 3 or 2, and comprehending what they read. 

What would you consider precocious in music? Or math, dance, art, or sports? 

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I think by definition, precocious just means doing things early -- that's the meaning of the word 🙂 . So, say, my kids tend to learn to read between 3 and 4 -- that would be considered precocious. My 4 year-old knew something like 80 words when she was 15 months old (I wrote them down, because I was kind of staggered by her verbal abilities, so that's how I know) -- that would be considered precocious, too. 

I don't think precocious kids always wind up as gifted, although there's certainly a correlation. 

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21 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

 

I don't think precocious kids always wind up as gifted, although there's certainly a correlation. 

Genuinely curious, what is the difference between precocious and gifted? I had always used the two interchangeably.

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1 minute ago, SDMomof3 said:

Genuinely curious, what is the difference between precocious and gifted? I had always used the two interchangeably.

I think "precocious" just means "doing things early," and gifted suggests actually doing things better or deeper. So, precocious kids may or may not grow up into gifted kids or adults. And an adult may not be precocious -- that's a kid term. 

Edited by Not_a_Number
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1 hour ago, Not_a_Number said:

gifted suggests actually doing things better or deeper

Is this generally agreed upon? I think it’s true for many gifted kids (though what does “better” mean?), but definitely not all. I think it is expressed differently in different kids. Some do things earlier, some are really fast at things, some have really amazing creative thinking, some have unusually deep thoughts. I agree some kids may be precocious at certain things in childhood, but it doesn’t turn out to be indicative of their overall intelligence. Particularly for kids whose parents spend time working with them in toddlerhood and early childhood at doing things that most people don’t work on with their kids at that age. A good number of those kids average out with their peers in the long run. I have one “gifted” kid who fits the mold of very precocious early development, quick learner, excellent student, etc. etc. I have another (with a significantly higher IQ on paper) who was none of those (well, she might have been considered verbally precocious by others, but she didn’t come across that way in comparison to her older sister) and doesn’t fit the typical “gifted” mold. It’s made me think IQ really isn’t a very helpful measurement. 

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I always thought of precocious as being very intellectually curious, questioning, and very comfortable talking to adults from an early age. I had a very narrow definition obviously, as the stated definition is just having certain abilities earlier. But I think I had heard it so frequently in reference to  my daughter who would question people relentlessly, striking up conversations with any adult she could find, that I associated it more with a personality type.  So while my son read earlier and was more accelerated math-wise, he did not strike me as precocious.  He was more of a rule follower and was pretty quiet around adults.  

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6 minutes ago, kand said:

Is this generally agreed upon? I think it’s true for many gifted kids (though what does “better” mean?), but definitely not all. I think it is expressed differently in different kids. Some do things earlier, some are really fast at things, some have really amazing creative thinking, some have unusually deep thoughts. I agree some kids may be precocious at certain things in childhood, but it doesn’t turn out to be indicative of their overall intelligence. Particularly for kids whose parents spend time working with them in toddlerhood and early childhood at doing things that most people don’t work on with their kids at that age. A good number of those kids average out with their peers in the long run. I have one “gifted” kid who fits the mold of very precocious early development, quick learner, excellent student, etc. etc. I have another (with a significantly higher IQ on paper) who was none of those (well, she might have been considered verbally precocious by others, but she didn’t come across that way in comparison to her older sister) and doesn’t fit the typical “gifted” mold. It’s made me think IQ really isn’t a very helpful measurement. 

Hmmm, that’s how I think of it, but to be honest I didn’t think hard about it! Just trying for a contrast with precocious... I wonder what a better definition would be 🤔

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Would a fast learner be considered precocious? For example my niece is a fast learner, she started the piano at 9 and by 12 she was playing advanced pieces, by Tchaikovsky and Chopin. She just one of those kids who just picks things up really quickly when she is interested. I always thought she was gifted but I’ve people talking about her as a precocious child. 

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36 minutes ago, Swimmer1112 said:

Would a fast learner be considered precocious? For example my niece is a fast learner, she started the piano at 9 and by 12 she was playing advanced pieces, by Tchaikovsky and Chopin. She just one of those kids who just picks things up really quickly when she is interested. I always thought she was gifted but I’ve people talking about her as a precocious child. 

I would think of that as gifted as opposed to precocious, personally. But I'm curious what other people think! 

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1 hour ago, Swimmer1112 said:

Would a fast learner be considered precocious? For example my niece is a fast learner, she started the piano at 9 and by 12 she was playing advanced pieces, by Tchaikovsky and Chopin. She just one of those kids who just picks things up really quickly when she is interested. I always thought she was gifted but I’ve people talking about her as a precocious child. 

With music, I think of precocious more as the kid who can play that kind of advanced pieces at 7. I've known a couple of kids like that (not mine!)

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1 hour ago, maize said:

I think of precocious as early skill development.

Agree. If I see a child who is 3-4 years ahead of their peers in some areas, then I would consider them to have a precocious talent in that area.

If a child could work in a field of study on the same level as a trained adult professional, then, I would consider that child a Prodigy - this is most commonly seen in the fields of Classical Music, Math and Computer Programming.

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1 hour ago, WTM said:

Not exactly answering your question, but I think the label “precocious” might carry less stigma than “gifted.”

I agree with this. When people ask me about my reasons for homeschooling, I tend to say that my oldest was precocious and my local school district didn’t have a way to accommodate students like that until they were older, rather than saying she was “gifted”. The latter word feels loaded in an awkward way, even though I don’t think the two words mean the same thing. 

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1 minute ago, kand said:

I agree with this. When people ask me about my reasons for homeschooling, I tend to say that my oldest was precocious and my local school district didn’t have a way to accommodate students like that until they were older, rather than saying she was “gifted”. The latter word feels loaded in an awkward way, even though I don’t think the two words mean the same thing. 

Yeah, I've been known to use the word like that, too. That's probably why they've started sounding kind of synonymous to people! I think I only learned they weren't synonymous a few years ago. 

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FWIW, many years ago,there were two support boards. One was Precocious and Prodigious, and the other was HG+. I was slapped down quite soundly for daring to post on the first one with a kid who had started reading at 15 months as far as I knew, because that's just a splinter skill. I still don't quite understand what precocious means if it ISN'T doing stuff years ahead of the norm. 

 

I will say that as a music teacher, I consider a child to be gifted in music more based on speed of learning, not of age. My girl who started playing piano on her own during quarantine, started lessons in August, and by Jan was working on Grade 3 repertoire....yeah, she's gifted musically, even though, since she started at 13, there are a lot of kids doing Grade 3 younger than she is. 
 

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Reading at fifteen months is definitely precocious!

In the tree world precocious trees are those that produce fruit or nuts at a younger age than most.

Precocious and gifted may or may not correlate; I think in general a kid who is precocious in a particular skill is likely to also be gifted in that area, but there are absolutely late bloomers who overtake some more precocious kids. And some precocious kids end up rather average with time. Brains and brain development are complex.

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9 minutes ago, maize said:

Reading at fifteen months is definitely precocious!

In the tree world precocious trees are those that produce fruit or nuts at a younger age than most.

Precocious and gifted may or may not correlate; I think in general a kid who is precocious in a particular skill is likely to also be gifted in that area, but there are absolutely late bloomers who overtake some more precocious kids. And some precocious kids end up rather average with time. Brains and brain development are complex.

I think they correlate, but the correlation isn’t 1 😉 . But it’s definitely positive.

Edited by Not_a_Number
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Regarding the stigma of gifted vs precocious: I was surprised to notice recently that in some older writing about child development, "precocious" seemed to have a mildly to moderately negative connotation. I wish I had noted the source, but it seemed to be used for kids who were a little showy/mouthy. Nowadays, however, I agree with folks above. Precocious means early developing, not necessarily gifted, and can be a socially safer way to phrase things.

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I think of precocious as being able to discuss or do things like an older person.  For example, being able to hold a meaningful conversation with an adult when you're 5yo.  I'm not talking about being able to blab about the 80 dinosaurs or cars you know about, but being able to discuss back and forth in a way that would genuinely interest a more mature person.  Another example would be when my 4yo sister used to cook simple meals without help.  Not only did she cook, but she had the sense to plan and take safety measures to avoid accidents / fires.  (This might not be precocious in some cultures though.)

Precocious has also been used as a negative term to refer to young people who have more worldly knowledge than is considered good for them.

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Please don’t quote. 

I would describe my DS as precocious. He was full-on running at 9mo. At 18mo he had >300 words. At 2.5 he was self-teaching reading & discovering kindergarten math concepts. He consistently works 2-3 grade levels ahead. He picks up skills easily & early. 

I’m not certain whether or not he’s gifted. If so, he’s 2E. He was evaluated during ADHD testing, but of course he was untreated at the time so he spent the entire meeting bouncing off the walls; the evaluator could hardly get a word in. 

Edited by Shoes+Ships+SealingWax
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I just remembered a funny story about my older.  He was at a 3 year old's birthday party (ds was 2 and 11months at the time).  And there were about 15 of these little kids aged 2 to 3 playing musical chairs.  All the parents were laughing their heads off, because when the chair was removed, none of the kids realized it. None of them seemed to be at all clear about the point of the game, or even that it was a game. When a kid couldn't find a chair, he got really confused and looked around at which point my friend gave the kid a lollipop and lead them back to their parents. And all the kids just started walking to the music again.  At about 8 kids left, the music goes off, and all the kids sit in a chair.  Now it was the parents turn to look around confused because my friend had removed a chair.  At this point I realize that my ds is sitting next to me and he hasn't gotten 'out' yet.  So I ask him, why he wasn't playing. This very small child looks up at me and says, and I quote,  "Someone is going to lose this game, and it is NOT going to be me!"

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