How can you tell if your child is a prodigy?

The Right Tool for the Job

Some prodigies are easier to spot than others. Take Marie Curie, the Nobel-prize-winning chemist. Before she was 5 years old, she had taught herself how to read -- in French and Russian. Pablo Picasso was drawing and painting as soon as he was old enough to demand a brush. Violinist Jascha Heifetz was performing music publicly by age 5.

But not all prodigies can do math before they graduate kindergarten. While "child prodigies" generally refers only to people whose if their talents are revealed by age 11, plenty of highly talented children prodigies develop their abilities a bit later in their life (like mathematician/philosopher Blaise Pascal, who got turned on to geometry at the ripe old age of 12).

Some prodigies may gravitate toward their individual talents, others will stumble upon them, and still others will need the means for expressing their talents put directly before them. This provides as good excuse as any to expose your child to many different academic and artistic pursuits. As Autumn's father points out, there's no telling what talent your child has that may only be expressed with the right combination of tools, instruments and intellectual exposure.

If your kid is a naturally gifted violinist who's given nothing but drum kits, the odds are quite uncertain that the potential for violin mastery will transfer to excellence in percussion. Likewise, your child may have no inclination to play the violin, but would make your jaw drop if you saw him or her on the drums.

A prodigy's interest and ability are usually linked -- you don't hear too many stories about a science prodigy who would rather play video games. And, speaking of video games, if your child is constantly playing them, enroll him or her in a basic computer-programming class. That desire to play could be the clue to a hidden talent.

When you've provided access to as many physical activities, intellectual undertakings and art forms as possible, you may find your child is a prodigy, after all. Regardless, he or she will be better off for the pursuit.

Related Articles


  • Autumn de Forest. (Aug. 20, 2010)
  • Chillot, Rick. "10 child prodigies (who actually ended up doing something)" Mental Floss. Dec. 10, 2007. (Aug. 25, 2010)
  • Golomb, Claire. "The development of artistically gifted children: selected case studies." Psychology Press, 1995. ISBN 0805815244, 9780805815245.
  • Hancock, David. "Child prodigy, 14, commits suicide." CBS News. March 19, 2005.
  • Quart, Alissa. "Hothouse Kids: How the Pressure to Succeed Threatens Childhood." Penguin, 2007. ISBN 0143111914, 9780143111917.
  • Sachs, Andrea. "The Downside of Being a Child Prodigy." Time. Sept. 6, 2006.,8599,1532087,00.html
  • Telephone interview with Autumn de Forest. Aug. 20, 2010.
  • Telephone interview with Douglas de Forest. Aug. 20, 2010.
  • Telephone interview with Katherine de Forest. Aug. 20, 2010.
  • The Mozart Project. "Mozart's Life." (Aug. 25, 2010)

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