A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

Building Your Kid’s Vocabulary

ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Research suggests that the more words parents speak to their toddlers, the larger their kids’ vocabularies. But do the circumstances in which the child hears those words matter as well?

When it comes to learning, the more words, the better. But when your toddler overhears other people’s chatter, are they really picking up those words?

Developmental psychologists at the University of Chicago observed 30 2-year-olds and their families, and found that overheard speech was not a predictor of later vocabulary size. What did matter was direct speech to the toddler. The researchers found that the more words and language directed to the child from all family members, the better vocabulary the child had later on. So parents, it’s not enough for your child to just hear the conversations. They need to take part. Make sure all family members talk directly to the child and have back-and-forth conversations. Help build your child’s vocabulary one chat at a time.

Even though overhearing speech was not a predictor of later vocabulary size, the research did suggest that listening to speech in the house may be important for learning about narrative structure and grammar.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Milvionne Chery, News Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. 

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