My DD is 26 months old and recently we've started suspecting she is bright/gifted/whatever you want to call it. I've had a lot of experience with kids growing up but she is our first (and only - at least for a few more weeks since I'm 37 weeks pregnant :-) so it wasn't until recently that we noticed her language and math skills are more that what you might expect for her age. I knew she had a lot of "facts" down before I expected her to (taught herself numerals, letters, colors, early) but I just chalked it up general develomental differences but after my husband noticed a few things - family drawings complete with faces, arms, legs, clothing - a upside down baby inside the mommy figure, etc. Later he was trying to convince her that the opened box of granola was the same as the unopened box but she said "No, dem are similar but I prefer that one" (of course, the unopened box - but she was right, one had raisins and one didn't :-) and he asked me if she just said what he thought she did - then we actually looked at a few of those development tracker sites and realized she might actually be more than just a little ahead of the curve.
Anyway, it doesn't matter much now in terms of academics but it has got me worried about a few social areas. One, she rarely will play on her own. Sometimes I'll play with her but usually she likes to follow me around and help my cook, fold laundry, etc which is fine. But now that I'm super tired, I just want to sit on the couch and I've realized she just can not play by herself - if I ask her to she will cry but she is content to sit next to me on the couch. And just sit there! At least until I can't take it and start reading to her. Actually, if I just read to her all the time, she'd be happy. Luckily she can sit through chapter books but at about an hour, I'm really ready to be done reading. Everyonce in a while I'll be stubborn and she'll give up after a long while (an hour or so!) and do a puzzle for 10 minutes then come back. Is that normal? I guess I just figured by now she'd be able to play independently for a few minutes so i'm worried, either about her socially or about my not providing toys that are right for her needs (although we do have simple toys - mostly puzzles, wood blocks, duplo toys, waldorf baby). Part of it might be that she is a perfectionist, so if she doesn't think she can do it right, she just wants me to do it for her and she doesn't seem to get that my putting together a puzzle shouldn't really be fun for her.
Also, she doesn't like to play with other kids. Not just big groups of kids, but even around another kid or two. If I have a mom come over with young kids, she'll sit on my lap or sit next to me and watch them play. A few days ago we had kids playing in our sandbox and she took a blanket, rolled herself up in it, said she was taking a nap and just watched them play for a hour. I tried encouraging her to play, not even necessarily with them, just another toy in another part of the yard, but not a chance. She didn't seem unhappy, but I felt bad watching her.
Am I just reading too much into this and these things normal for a kid her age, gifted or not?
I think these things (specifically the social stuff) are within the range of normal, but may be over to one end of that range a bit. My kids were not so keen on interacting with others their age when they were toddlers, especially dd1 who has a tendency toward anxiety. I think she just wasn't comfortable with little kids because they were so unpredictable — they might come swipe your toy, or try to hug you (she also had a big personal space bubble), or they might start making loud noises. Adults were much more predictable and she felt more comfortable around them. Even today at age 11 she often gravitates toward adults. She loves her teachers, her friends' moms (she does play with age peers now, too), especially her grandma. Often she will buttonhole a friend's mom in a group playdate and be telling her all about her latest manga or jewelry creation.
As far as being tired in late pregnancy (and congratulations!!) have you thought about audio books? There are some great ones out there. It would save you reading. We have checked them out of the library for years, but you can get them online and in stores if you want to own them. http://librivox.org is a collection of mostly older titles that are no longer under copyright and are available free (sort of like the audio version of the Gutenberg project).
She does sound bright and it seems like she has a great vocab, and great attention span if she's listening to chapter books. I think it's important to continue to expose her to playgroups, etc, and let that become more comfortable. She may be a bit of an introvert as she gets older and rather have one or two close friends instead of a whole group, but it's hard to tell at this age.
My dd2 was more interactive with her peers than dd1, who did the sit in my lap thing at playgroup for a long time. She is probably more easily identified as gifted and is very social now at 8. Dd1 is probably more likely 2E ("twice exceptional"), but we have not pursued that label and have just had her in some alternative school situations (small private school, small charter, and one year of traditional public).
Anyway, I think you're doing just fine and I would continue to encourage, but not insist, on the things like playgroups and maybe just playing near you if not by herself. It seemed forever before my dd1 would go in another room w/o me, but dd2 was much more likely to explore.
"All you fascists are bound to lose" — Woody Guthrie
Thanks for the encouragement. I think I just had a little mommy crisis of faith...a couple bad days with playdates and fighting her left me going back and forth between lots of mommy guilt because "my sweet wonderful obviously brilliant :-) child just wanted me to read her a book and how could I refuse her when she only has a few weeks of undivided attention left and I'm stiffling her gifts" and wanting to scream "What is wrong with you child, I'm not a horrible mother because I invited another two year old to play or am asking you to sit next to me for 30 minutes and play with blocks. This shouldn't be torture!"...but I'm feeling better now.
I'll definitely be checking out some audio books and have been undecisive about trying to add a gymboree or kindermusik type class to our schedule but now I think I'll start checking those out - both so she gets consistent exposure to other kids her age and so I can make sure to get out of the house too.
My DD acted quite similarly at that age. I remember she was a watcher. She was an observer. She would have done exactly as you described in those situations. She also could sit and listen to a book for hours. I will say that she did start entertaining herself around that age which made my left infinitely easier. I think it was about that age that she would play pretend with her figures for long periods of time.
It does seem that the older she gets the more I can tell she is having trouble socially. It is just not clicking with her. She flat out ignores strangers when they talk to her. She won't look at them unless I make her to. She speaks to them only when I prompt her. I am CONSTANTLY repeating other people's questions to her. She still does not really get the whole waving thing. I am starting to understand that she does not seem to realize that someone has to be looking at you in order for them to see you, or that they need to be paying attention to you in order for them to hear you.
DD is just turned four and while she is happy to play with children her age, she does not seem to know how to communicate effectively with them. For example, when she has a toy she wants to show another little girl on the playground, she just holds it out to her. She seems to be missing social cues. She will answer a playmate's question, but then just smile blankly, not realizing she needs to continue the conversation. It is hard to know what is going on because she does say she is shy. She also says she wants to learn how to talk to friends. We will see how she does in preschool, which she was doing great in last year. She was always leading the boys around in an imaginative scenario. I am sure she is an introvert and shy and a little awkward.