Nowadays, there is an important number of companies that are designing toys considering the requirements of children with special needs. This is wonderful, however, most of these toy developments are regarding children with disabilities. There are many other children with specific needs that could benefit from toy companies having them in mind, too: Talented and gifted kids, children whose needs are most of the time overlooked as most people consider, wrongly, that everything is easier for them.
Gifted children and why they might benefit by playing with certain toys
To summarize the concept, gifted children are those capable of performing above their chronological age in academics, art, creativity, sports, etc. However, being gifted does not mean life is effortless and trouble-free for them. On the contrary, in some aspects, they might require important support.
It is important to understand that talented and gifted kids have specific needs and that the toy industry can truly help them. For instance, they would benefit from having access to toys that could on one side assist them in taking advantage of their academic or creative potential, and on the other support their social and emotional growth, which is usually quite immature compared to other areas of their development.
They are usually characterized by their asynchronous development, which means that they might be like they have different ages at once. For instance, at a physical age of 7 years old they might be intellectually similar to a 10-year-old but show the emotional outbursts of a 5-year-old. As you can imagine, this represents an issue for parents and educators trying to find out the best toys for a talented kid, as they are not able to follow the manufacturer’s age-appropriate recommendations. This factor is also a challenge to solve for the toy industry.
But even if targeting gifted children is complex, in part due to the disparity of peculiarities between them, there are some common characteristics that the industry can take into consideration to create meaningful and highly useful toys for them.
Toys to promote and foster their natural motivation to learn
Talented and gifted children occasionally experience a lack of motivation and performance. Data shows that an important number of gifted children do not perform well in school. Sadly, they might be eager to learn but they can’t do well in the way regular schools are teaching them.
An 8-year-old gifted kid can spend hours immersed in finding rocks, playing with something related to geology or reading an advanced book about minerals, but won’t be able to finish a page of English homework. On one side high-ability learners usually struggle with executive functions, on the other side we have to consider that their skills in several subjects might vary quite drastically.
How can toys help them in this matter? Well, as they are usually good autonomous learners but in the things that interest them, we can provide toys that, based on different interests, promote other skills at the same time. For instance, children with a passion for minerals can practice attention and concentration or literacy with a puzzle such as Mineralogy Jigsaw by Hinkler.
But to design for gifted kids we need to forget the stereotypical image of a nerd, as most gifted kids are “cooler” than we might think. Many are popular, enjoy jokes and are less serious than what we might have previously imagined. So have that in mind when thinking about topics for toys, and even the aesthetics of the product, its packaging and communication. The line of products Crazy Science by Lisciani can be a good example of how to also approach this target.
Toys to support their emotional well-being
Most people expect more mature behavior from an academically advanced kid, when in fact they usually experience social and emotional difficulties. They might be able to multiply earlier than others but struggle with impulse control for a longer time. No doubt this also presents a challenge for parents and educators.
For high-ability learners, it is especially important to work on these two aspects (social interactions and emotional management) as early as possible. The good news is that lately, our industry is providing the market with great toys to support children in this regard.
As for toys that support socialization, we have to consider that gifted kids tend to think they are right and might have some issues sharing responsibilities to achieve the same goal, so you can think about how to create toys that promote cooperation instead of competition. That is the case of games such as Hero Town by Djeco.
As for emotional intelligence, it is relevant to point out that talented children are usually highly sensitive. They experience things in a very intense way, and this can affect them much more than the average child. Due to this aspect of their personality, they can suffer very intensely. They must improve their emotional intelligence, and luckily parents and educators can support this factor by providing toys from early ages such as Mixed Emotions Wooden Balls by Haba, Building Basics Build & Learn Emotions by Mega Blocks or Emotions Magnetic Game by Janod.
Reaching gifted kids
Even if we are talking about a relatively small niche, parents and educators are getting more aware of the relevance of supporting these children. The fact is that the online research for this concept is growing, and some companies and distributors are starting to take advantage of this factor by classifying some of their toys for gifted children. For instance, nowadays there are already some websites that are created specifically to sell toys for this market.
No doubt, as the relevance of this is a target audience is increasing, so it is the opportunity for toy companies to address products and marketing campaigns to them. Manufacturers will benefit from addressing a not-too-exploited target while gifted children, their parents, and educators will benefit by getting more resources and toys to better understand and support their cognitive, social and emotional skills.