You can expect your baby to start speaking in the few months leading up to her first birthday. Yes, the first words are usually “mama” and “dada,” but how about the rest of your baby’s vocabulary?
According to a study, you can predict your baby’s early vocabulary by observing what your baby sees on a regular basis. Medical Daily reports that researchers from Indiana University found that babies are more likely to learn the words for objects that enter their field of vision more frequently.
“This may be how infants begin to break into language before their first birthday”
“Visual memory may be the initial key to getting words stuck on objects — familiar visual objects like table, shirt, bottle or spoon,” senior author Linda Smith said in a media release. “It’s an aggregated experience; those very first words may be learned — slowly and incrementally — for a few visually pervasive objects. This may be how infants begin to break into language before their first birthday.”
Language disorders and autism
As for children with delayed speech and language disorders, researchers think that these language problems are rooted in problems with visual processing.
“Children who are late talkers have slow or age-delayed visual processing skills for objects, for example,” Smith continued. “Children with autism have object-processing problems as well.”
Though this is the first study to focus on the visual side of language learning, earlier research has established that babies learn new words based on objects they find interesting. Babies, in other words, break into language through the objects they’re most visually drawn to.
For the study, 8 to 10-month-old babies were equipped with head-mounted cameras. That way, the researchers could observe the things they looked at the most. Mealtimes proved to be especially important, as it usually involves the same few objects. Because of that, items involved during mealtimes are often the first that are learned by infants.
This is why parents should intentionally explore how visuals play a role in early language learning. An earlier study found that even in older children, language learning comes easier when parents use visual cues to help associate words with objects.
“Taking account of the visual brings a whole new dimension of word-learning into view,” Smith said. “If all you ever worry about is the word side of word-learning, you may be missing half the problem: visual cues that aid language learning.”
READ: How to Boost Your Baby’s Language Development