Although most parents, educators, and researchers believe that children cant learn specific words until well into their second year, children younger than 1 year can, in fact, learn certain words for things that are not a regular part of their daily lives, according to new research being published in the January/February 2005 issue of the journal, Child Development.
The findings, based on research by Graham Schafer, D.Phil., of the University of Reading in Reading in the United Kingdom, suggest that what is considered a "formal" learning of a word may be underway long before children say much. "It appears that young children may understand word use more flexibly than scientists and parents have previously thought," says Dr. Schafer. The findings call into question earlier beliefs that before their second year most children only learn words for things they are interested in, or when those words are linked to certain routines, such as "bath," "car," or "cat."
To investigate this issue, Dr. Schafer asked parents of 52 nine-month-olds to use 12 board books and a set of 48 picture cards depicting common objects like keys, apples, fish, and chairs in simple games with their children four times a week for up to 10 minutes a session. The games were designed to build on the kind of routines parents already used in the home: Naming and pointing, sorting, finding the odd one out. No reading was required for either parents or children.
Andrea Browning | EurekAlert!
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