With the season of giving behind us and the cold days of winter upon us, the new year becomes a time for reflection.

With the season of giving behind us and the cold days of winter upon us, the new year becomes a time for reflection.

The gifts under the tree might already have been forgotten, but the time spent indoors with your child during winter break might have led you to discover some other valuable types of gifts -- those within your child. Perhaps you observed new academic maturity, blossoming skills or new interests your child has cultivated.

The state definition of "the gifted child" might be limited to the upper 5 percent of children who achieve high test scores, write well and excel academically.

However, children show their gifts in many other equally important ways, including through words, numbers, music, pictures, athletics or "hands-on" abilities.

In the field of education, we often are asked how teachers can support a child's areas of strength, interest or giftedness.

Educators are working hard to grow those gifts in our classrooms with book clubs, science experiments, math talks and history lessons, along with music, art and physical education activities, contests and concerts. However, the reinforcement children receive at home makes a significant difference.

Here are some tips to consider:

* Listen to your child. Take time to truly listen. Children will talk incessantly about what interests them. Ask questions. Then, take that interest and run with it by participating in activities together or reading about and discussing the area of interest. Community events and institutions, like the library, art museum, COSI, the zoo, a concert or a play can inspire students and often are available to families at minimal to no cost.

* Engage your child in a variety of different activities. Winter is long; it is easy for children to take up residency in front of their favorite screen. Take advantage of this time to explore. Our Metro Parks system has many winter programs available and local universities offer programs for families on a broad range of topics. Volunteer opportunities also can prove beneficial and allow your child to use his or her gifts and passions to help others. Search online together for opportunities. This could result in new areas of interest or might encourage your child's gifts and passions in a new way.

* Embrace your child's passions and encourage his or her goals. Let children learn from opportunities and discover what they love. Perhaps they dream of being a professional athlete. They might never reach that goal, but instead might develop interest in physical therapy or sports medicine. Give your child permission to make mistakes. If children have to do things perfectly, they never will take the risks necessary to discover and develop a gift.

* Communicate with your child's teacher. Teachers strive to find personal ways to connect curriculum to a student's world. Let teachers know your child's interests and activities outside of school. Often, the smallest connection can lead to the biggest success.

Together we can share the greatest gift of all: the talents and passions of our children.

Stefanie Hall and Cheri Turner are gifted-student coordinators for the South-Western City School District.