A TODDLER’S INGENUITY: My niece’s hairband bangles – art of a mini-genius

By Vijay Shah

It is not commonplace to think of toddlers as being smart, and certainly not as being highly creative. For an average tot, the apex of creativity is a paper or wall plastered with scribbles or a misshapen Lego tower that soon gets demolished as the child decides to go on a running rampage. Give a party of pre-schoolers a pack of felt-tips and you will soon need a new lick of paint for every wall in the house.

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...
A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and sizes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lego: the multicoloured building equipment favoured by tiny construction engineers the world over

Only a few days ago, my 3-year-old niece Shaniya tipped the theory of toddler creativity over onto its head in some kind of infantile mould-shattering handstand. My little superstar single-handedly took one group of objects and completely reinvented their purpose in a simple yet stunning action that completely left me, her uncle, in an open-jawed state of shock for several seconds.

It was a cold, miserable Boxing Day in the east of London,in a terraced house not far from the Beckton Alps. My sister, Shani’s mother, had requested me to come to her house to stay for a few hours babysitting. My niece, like most young girls her age, kicks off playtime by hauling various toys from her room to take to the living room. Her favourites are her baby dolls with matching prams, small toys from the plastic balls you get in gumball machines, pens and paper, large electronic gizmos and an enviable collection of teddy bears and stuffed plush animals. She also takes after Mummy with her keen eye for shoes, jewellery and other ‘trinkets’. She loves to walk around the flat in her shoes, but usually wears odd pairs. A pre-school attempt at shattering fashion trends?…

English: A photograph of 3 teddy bears. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: A photograph of 3 teddy bears. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Feel the wrath of Shaniya’s army of bone-breaking barbarian bears!!

When Shani takes respite from bringing in playthings directly from her bedroom next door, there are always a few stray toys stashed behind the sofa or lying around the floor to help break the monotonous re-runs of Horrid Henry on CITV. If she does not find any toys because they have been put away by Mum and Dad, then she will mess around with a necklace, one of her mother’s earrings or her all-time favourite: elastic hairbands.

As the winter sky stealthily darkened outside and the Uncle & Niece Partnership weathered yet another hour of kiddy telly, I saw Shaniya pull out several round sparkling objects as she sat in the middle of the living room’s rug. It was a motley collection of different coloured hairbands, freshly shop-bought. Shaniya has long curly black hair that is a mission to comb and keep tidy, so her mum buys elastic hair ornaments to quickly scrape her daughter’s barnet into a single or double ponytail when things start to get frizzy on top. She does not yet know how to tie up her own hair, as smart as she is, so resorts to pulling them over around her hands or feet and wearing them as some kind of flexible bangle.

Normally the standard policy here is one or two on the wrist or above the ankle, with official colours usually black or pink. Shaniya then walks around as normally as the pedestrians on the road outside wear their scarves. But this time the little angel decided to ramp things up a bit…

My niece’s hairband bangles (c) V. Shah/HalfEatenMind

I was only half-aware that while I was playing games on my phone, Shani has been slowly picking up the silver-striped hair accessories one-by-one and threading them on to her right wrist forming what looked like a sparkly scaled-down version of a Eighties legwarmer. For those readers who are familiar with South Asian weddings, the brides often wear gold or coloured plastic bangles in groups of up to 20 or so on each wrist. When I did a second double-take at Shaniya’s creation, I did think that it looked like the huge displays of bangles you can find at Asian jewellery shops.

Apart from the obvious intelligence shown by my niece in comprehending that the hairbands were elastic and of a suitable size enough to fit her chubby little fingers through, I was also taken aback at how she organised the colour layout: blues and pink at the posterior, preceded by equally spaced bands of purple, light green and red. It could be a fluke but it also could be the artistic and functional expression of a mini-genius. Shaniya certainly is adept at her three years and 3 1/2 months. She can hold a conversation, although half of what she says is gobbledygook. She has learned to use both regular phones and smartphones, as well as her father’s iPad (she is crazy for Angry Birds) and has only recently started getting the hang of taking photographs. She tidies up after herself and can sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Jingle Bells” fairly well. Even at such a tender age, what a lot of people assume are snivelling little monsters with a penchant for eardrum-splitter screams can possess substantial intelligence and motor skills far beyond their years. At the age of six, I myself possessed the reading age of a child twice my age.

Three years ago, Britain’s Daily Mail reported on a two-year-old Guildford toddler named Karina whose IQ was measured by a specialised education psychologist at a 160 points, the same as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. She was tested on various linguistic and cognitive skills and was found to be in the top 2% of intelligence centiles, with a preference for words especially. Her intelligence measurement was high enough to challenge kids twice her age and meant she was eligible to join MENSA  – the world collective of superminds.

Next time you see your toddler scrawl odd shapes on your kitchen wall, he/she could well be a Picasso in the making…

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“Meet Britain’s brainiest toddler: Two-year-old Karina has the same IQ as Stephen Hawking” – Beth Hale & Claire Ellicott, Femail – Daily Mail Online LINK 

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