From a Mini-Mozart to a 3-Year-Old Pool Master, Child Prodigies Astound

Child prodigies are garnering world-wide fame.

February 15, 2011, 1:06 PM

Feb. 23, 2011— -- Emily Bear said she started playing the piano at just 18 months old. Now at age 9, she has already performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

"Well...I'm okay!" Emily of her piano playing. "I love it."

But she's much better than just "okay." The little girl from Rockford, Ill. is what many would consider a child prodigy.

"One of my favorite things was when I played for the president," Emily said. "He was really nice."

Emily said she practices almost every day and is especially fond of Bach. Her parents started her in lessons when she was just 5.

"I guess kids will fiddle, but her fiddling didn't sound like a kid," said Emily's mother, Amanda Bear. "We were getting our kitchen painted and the painters were like who is playing piano? And then she'd waddle in in her diaper. So it was surreal."

Now just four years after she began taking lessons, Emily has played all over the world and composed hundreds of her own pieces.

"Oh, I guess 600," she said.

"I really do think she was born this way," Bear said of her daughter. "Absolutely."

Keith O'Dell from Gloversville, N.Y., is another kind of child prodigy -- a master pool player at just 3 years old. His father, Keith O'Dell, Sr., said his son used to watch him play when the little boy was still in a high chair.

"He just picked up on it one day," O'Dell said. "Just picked up the cue and started pocketing balls at 18 months...He can do all kinds of trick shots that would blow your mind."

Now the 3-year-old has sponsorships, become a YouTube sensation, and made dozens of television appearances on local TV stations as well as CNN and Rachel Ray, all before he is old enough to go to preschool.

His parents said they continue to be blown away by their son's enormous talent.

"There's stuff he's doing that people who are 30 years old can't do," O'Dell said. "He's incredible, he never ceases to amaze me. I mean there's stuff that he's doing now, his jump shots and his creativity, you know he comes up with stuff on his own that just blows us away. You know he'll see something on the table that I don't see and it's just amazing."

A Modern Day, 8-Year-Old Picasso?

When Kieron Williamson of Holt, England, got a drawing pad from his parents a few years ago, they quickly noticed that his simple sketches showed astounding skill.

"I think it is really easy," Kieron, now age 8, said of his elaborate landscape drawings.

"It's very difficult to appreciate that it's coming from, you know, Kieran," said Keiron's mother, Michelle Williamson. "He's normal in every other way, but what he produces is just, you know, breathtaking. It's amazing."

The young boy has already become an enormous success in England, selling his work through gallery showings and on his website. Thirty-three of Kieron's works from his last collection sold in 27 minutes and raked in more than $230,000.

"I'd really like to be able to say he gets his talent from me," said Kieron's mother. "But we don't know where the talent comes from."

Several psychologists say a child prodigy is when the child displays an expert level of proficiency in a skill, usually before age 11.

Alissa Quart, author of the book, "Hothouse Kids: How the Pressure to Succeed Threatens Childhood," said there have been different findings on whether "giftedness" is inherent or practiced.

"I think you can make an extremely talented child because it takes many, many hours of practice to make a child good at anything," she said.

Quart added that having a child who is exceptionally talented in one skill, doesn't mean parents should expect the child to be a prodigy at everything, and that there was a heavy pressure on today's kids to be well-rounded.

"Being particularly good at one thing can actually produce a sense of value," she said. "But it's important not to overly praise it."

The key to maintaining a gifted child's happiness, Quart said, was for parents to make sure their child continued to enjoy the work.

"It doesn't have this kind of robotic, studious thing and have this sense that you're just performing," she said.

Keiron's parents said that raising a child prodigy wasn't easy because they were constantly concerned about their son's well-being in the public spotlight.

"You worry about being good parents anyway," Michelle Williamson said. "But when you're given such a responsibility you want to make sure that, you know, he's well protected, that he's well balanced."

She added that she also feared Keiron would get burned out.

"It's completely Kieron's choice whether he paints or not," his mother said. "We hope for his sake that he doesn't lose it completely but if he decided that he didn't want to sell his work commercially then I think [my husband] and I would be quite pleased that we wouldn't have that headache anymore because it's a massive responsibility."

As for 8-year-old Kieron, he seemed content with being a painting child prodigy, saying he already knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"A really good artist and a professional footballer," he said.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events