Recent research from the University of Waterloo may have found a connection between early social experiences and how toddlers learn about language.

When researchers study how children develop language skills they typically look at the adult-kiddo connection. But this study, which was recently published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, examined how children affect the language development of other children.

photo: Naomi Shi via Pexels

Professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo and study co-author Katherine White said of the study, “We wanted to know if more exposure hearing other children speak would affect toddlers’ ability to process child speech.”

What did the researchers find? After conducting two language experiments with 88 toddlers the study found that the more time toddlers spent around other toddlers the better able they were to associate new words with objects. White said, “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).”

—Erica Loop

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