Babies & ToddlersKidsParenting News

Words are learned differently by older babies, says study

A study has found that toddlers learn words differently as they age, and a limit exists as to how many words they can learn each day.

Did you know that most 18-month-olds learn two to five new words every day, according to research? However, little is known about how toddlers process information to learn new words as they progress through the preschool years.

According to a study from the University of Missouri, toddlers learn words differently as they get older, and there is a limit to how many words they can learn each day. These findings may aid parents in expanding their children’s vocabularies, as well as speech-language pathologists in devising and improving interventions for children with language difficulties.

The research was supported in part by the Student Research Grant in Early Childhood Language Acquisition from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation.

“We discovered that babies’ abilities to accurately guess the meaning of new words increases between 18 and 30 months of age. Toddlers are able to accurately guess the meanings of new words at a significantly higher level by 24 to 36 months,” said Judith Goodman, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Missouri.

“Interestingly, we discovered that the cues toddlers utilise to learn new words vary even as they progress from 18 to 30 months of age.”

What the findings revealed

Researchers used three sorts of cues to teach six new phrases to youngsters ranging in age from 18 to 36 months. The researchers recorded the children’s ability to correctly estimate what the words meant when they were given the signals alone or in pairs.

“When youngsters were given a new term and asked to pick between an item for which they already had a name and an unfamiliar object, they correctly attributed the new word to the unfamiliar object,” Goodman said. “As the toddlers became older, their capacity to infer a word’s meaning from linguistic context improved as well, such as figuring out that a ‘kiwi’ must be a food item when they hear, ‘Sammy eats the kiwi’.”

Social cues become less effective with age

The study revealed that, on the other hand, using social cues, such as eye gaze, became less effective as the children matured. By 36 months of age, children were less likely to assume a word referred to the particular object a speaker was looking at – looking at a kiwi when teaching the child the word ‘kiwi’ – than younger children were.

Goodman also found that a limit exists as to how many words toddlers can retain. A day after the children learned the six words, the researchers tested whether the children remembered the words. The children better remembered the first three words they had learned the first day.

Toddlers who struggle with language may benefit from specific cues

Children who are struggling with learning language may benefit from being presented with specific cues. Additionally, the research reinforces the importance of providing children with rich word-learning environments, in which toddlers are exposed to many words and are provided with a variety of cues to help them learn and remember those words and what they represent.

Your little one is listening to everything you say and storing it away at an incredible rate. Instead of using “baby” words, use the correct names for people, places, and things. Speak slowly and clearly, and keep it simple.

Related Articles

Back to top button