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How can I keep my precocious 4-year-old’s imagination alive?
Felicia
From your description it sounds as though you are doing a lot of things right, and life with your daughter must be a constant delight. Children with a great deal of adult contact tend to talk earlier and better than children who don’t have the advantage of pleasant contact with adults. (I say, “pleasant contact” because some children don’t hear much speech from the adults in their lives other than “Shut up,” “Stop that” and “I’m going to whip you.”)

I like the question you submitted because you didn’t stop with reporting facts your daughter has acquired (the Pledge of Allegiance, the alphabet, etc.) but gave me an example of your daughter’s creative thinking. That is a far more significant indicator of accelerated development than memorization. By the way: What did you tell her about why the roads are straight? (Just kidding!) Encourage such questions and observations such as the one about the clock. And switch roles, asking her a lot of “why” questions. These can follow her observations: “Why do you think they put the holes on the top of the clock in the first place?” Or they can be off-the-wall questions, such as “Why do you think they put just 12 hours on clocks when there are 24 hours in a day?”

Keep reading to her every day and, after a story has been read to her two or three times, let her “read” it to you. Get her a library card and make weekly pilgrimages to the library. Provide her with plenty of toys that encourage creativity like puppets, dress-up clothes and household toys she can use to act out dramatic plays and fantasies. Limit her TV watching. Even though there is not an early childhood program that she could attend, try to arrange for her to play with other children to make certain her social skills keep pace with her intellectual development. And, most of all, love her, enjoy her and let her know you are proud of her.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education