You learn as you go. This is how you learned to walk, to speak, to read and to do pretty much everything else. You observe, you try and you do it. Scientists say that this is why it is very important that small children hear a lot of talking from their parents. Researchers at the University of York have actually identified a link between hearing adults speak and nonverbal abilities in small children.
Researchers fitted tiny audio recorders into the clothing of 107 children aged two to four. This allowed scientists to their interactions with parents and other caregivers during a period of 3 days. Parents were also asked to partake in various activities with their children. These tasks were designed to test children’s cognitive skills. His was a great method to gain insight into effects of parents-children interaction, because data was collected without interfering with lives of the subjects.
Lab setting provides a controlled environment, but it also makes participants rather uncomfortable. This is a great advantage of recording at home – people were acting more naturally and data was more reliable. Scientists found that the more adults speak, the better developed their children’s cognitive ability is. This is quite interesting – the quantity of words was very important.
Scientists think that it is most likely because more words provide children with more opportunity to learn, but more research is needed to confirm this idea. It could also be that more intelligent children are more engaged and provoke more words from their parents. But, of course, the quality of words is important as well.
The more diverse words parents are using, the more developed the vocabulary of children is going to be. This is quite simple, but very important – if a child hears more different words, he is going to learn more words. Finally, scientists addressed different parenting styles and found that positive parenting, when parents are responsive and encouraging of exploration and self-expression, can be associate with better behaviour of the child.
Professor Sophie von Stumm, senior author of the study, said: “The study highlights the importance of treating early life experiences as dynamic and changeable rather than static entities – approaching research in this way will help us to understand the interplay between environmental experiences and children’s differences in development”.
Of course, scientists will have to continue this research. However, the guidelines are already becoming clear – parents have to talk more with their children. They should also use more diverse words with them. This will allow children to develop better cognitive ability and language skills.
Source: University of York