Toddlers Who Have More Exposure To Other Kids Do Better At Word Learning Skills

Parents know that children learn a lot of social skills from playing with other children. Although children often learn from being around other adults, it seems that when socializing with peers they not only learn how to play and act around children their own age but they may also learn do better learning to speak and understand language.

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Waterloo looked at a group of children who spent most of their time with adults and compared it with those who spend more time with children and found that the toddlers who were around other children more were better at "associating a new word to a new object."

The study focused on whether children hearing how other children pronounced words, compared to just hearing how adults pronounce them, could affect their ability to learn new words. “We wanted to know if more exposure hearing other children speak would affect toddlers’ ability to process child speech,” said Katherine White, professor of psychology at Waterloo, who co-authored the study with Ph.D. candidate, Dana Bernier.

The study looked at a group of 88 toddlers. Some of the toddlers spent less than 8 hours a week around their peers, while others spent more time around children on a weekly basis. As part of the study, the children were given instructions on a task by both a 7-year-old child and an adult.

"Our study demonstrates that toddlers are extremely good at processing the speech of young children and that this is true even for toddlers who do not have a lot of experience with other children. This means that they could use this kind of speech, in addition to adult speech, to learn about their native language(s)," said White.

"However, we also found an intriguing difference in how toddlers processed new words that was related to how much exposure they had to other children, White added. "Most studies focus on how toddlers learn from adult speakers. But we think it’s important to explore how toddlers process the speech of children of various ages and how much they use speech from other children to guide their language learning."

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