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Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor

Toddlers Learn More Words by Listening to Other Children

These tiny teachers have a big impact.
PUBLISHED ON 05/20/2019

Previous studies have already suggested that children expand their vocabulary by listening to their parents talk, but a recent study says little ones take in even more new words when they are with kids their own age.

"Much of what we know about the world is learned from other people. This is especially true for young children,” says study researcher Yuanyuan Wang. Kids learn and process information about the speaker from speech, including age, gender and even social class.

The researchers set up two experiments to determine what age group was most influential to 2-year-olds based on how they pick up new words. In the first experiment, toddlers watched side-by-side video clips of two speakers reciting a nursery rhyme while listening to speech that matched either the age or gender of one of the two speakers. The toddlers were successful at matching the vocal age and gender they heard to visual attributes on the screen. In the second experiment, toddlers were taught new words during a learning task using speakers of different ages. The researchers found the toddlers learned new words more effectively from other children. In the study the child talkers were slightly older, between 8 to 10 years old.

"It is fascinating to learn children showed selected learning from other child talkers," says Wayne. "This has implications for social cognition and selective social learning." Wang believes that toddlers are interested in the development of their own speech patterns, and as a result may be more attuned to the sound of other child speakers that resemble their own.