Artistically Gifted Three-Year-Old

At three years of age, a child is too young to be enrolled in any special programs, despite advanced fine motor and visual skills.
My toddler, who just turned three, sits for long periods coloring intently on pre-printed pictures. He uses color patterns, stays within the lines, and tries not to leave anything unfinished. His daycare teachers tell me they feel he is talented. He has also been more advanced verbally, articulately communicating at an early age.

Within the past six months I've noticed he is highly interested in puzzles. He was given a 25-piece puzzle (ages three to seven noted on the box) for his birthday. His father helped him the first time and walked away. Within minutes he had dumped out the puzzle, put it back together, and was asking for another one.

His six-year-old brother has been tested and qualified for the Gifted and Talented program at school. He is also very artistically inclined. I had first thought about putting him in art lessons, but now I am considering it for his little brother as well. Would this be a mistake -- is my three-year-old too young? Thank you for your time and advice.

It certainly does sound as if you have some talented sons at your house! At three years of age, your preschooler has advanced fine motor and visual skills if he is coloring so carefully. He also has advanced short-term memory and visual/spatial skills if he can complete difficult jigsaw puzzles unassisted. However, at this young age, the best recommendation I can make is to let him do more of this! Putting him in a formal art program, especially one with older kids, may prove frustrating to him. Even though he is advanced, he is still three years old and he may not be interested in sticking to task all of the time. Frustration could negatively effect his natural interest in art.

Continue to provide him with lots of time to play with art materials, puzzles, and building toys. You can even make jigsaw puzzles yourself by gluing interesting photos or pictures on cardboard and cutting them up. Take art materials along to a places your sons have already visited a lot (like Grandma's house, or a shopping mall) and encourage the kids to draw something interesting. These are goods way to keep their artistic interests alive.

By kindergarten age, your son may be ready for a local art program. However, unless you have located a private art teacher, a group program may not be sufficiently advanced for your sons. You stated that your older son has been identified for the gifted program. A recent study showed that most siblings test within 10 IQ points of each other, so it is likely that your little one may have some gifted talents as well. I would like to suggest the following book: Your Gifted Child: How to Recognize and Develop the Special Talents in Your Child from Birth to Age Seven by Joan Smutny.

Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.

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