A child’s first word is always a time for celebration. Whether it’s "ma," "da," or "cookie," the fact that your child has begun to communicate verbally represents a significant step in his or her development – and your role as a parent. And while most infants understand a small repertoire of words by 12 months, there’s little knowledge of just how they build those vocabularies. In contrast, researchers know a fair amount about how toddlers’ language develops. While it might make sense to assume that younger babies learn language in much the same way as older babies, a new study published in the March/April issue of the journal Child Development finds that just isn’t so.
It turns out that younger babies learn words for new objects based on how interested they are in the object, whereas older babies attach more importance to whether the speaker is interested in the object. These findings suggest that parents might want to talk more about what their babies are interested in rather than what they, the parents, are interested in.
To explore this issue, researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia and the Universities of Delaware in Newark and Evansville in Indiana conducted two studies. In both, infants were taught new words for "interesting" or "boring" objects. The "interesting" objects were brightly colored and made noise or had moving parts. They immediately captured the babies’ attention. In contrast, the "boring" objects were dull in color and appearance.
Andrea Browning | EurekAlert!
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