Play patterns and behaviours of young children who are gifted in an early childhood setting : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education at Massey University

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Massey University
This thesis begins to address a gap in early childhood research in New Zealand by exploring how young children who are gifted play in an early childhood setting. In this study, data were generated from two young gifted children and five teachers, in one early childhood centre in the North Island of New Zealand. The children, both boys, were nominated by teachers as being intellectually and affectively gifted. A qualitative approach using case study methodology was utilised in order to describe, explain and understand (Yin, 1994) their play patterns and behaviours. Methods chosen were observation, interviews and document analysis. Findings showed that these children had advanced knowledge and language, were perfectionists and could experience frustration during play. They were found to be highly imaginative children with an interest in abstract or conceptual thinking and ideas. Co-incidentally, both were ambidextrous. The children were highly curious with a love of learning, but boredom could be experienced. They exhibited a heightened interpersonal awareness and advanced sense of humour during play. Five play preferences were identified. These children enjoyed open-ended play, pretend play, solitary play and rules-oriented play. They also preferred their play not to be disrupted by noise, centre routines and transitions. Their interactions during play were explored. They preferred to interact with the teacher during play and they were observed ignoring or repelling their peers. When they did engage socially, dominance, leadership and competition were elements of that play. This study has implications for early childhood teachers. Firstly, there is a need to understand the phenomenon of giftedness. Secondly there is the need to notice the characteristics of giftedness during play and recognise them as such. Finally, there is the need to respond by offering additional play support. The writer suggests that as early childhood teachers are a significant element of the gifted child's curriculum, that teachers can co-construct learning in meaningful ways which cater for the ease and speed of learning (Gagne, 2004) of the gifted child.
New Zealand, Gifted children, Preschool education