Researchers at the University of Iowa studied how 16-month-old children learn words for nonsolid objects, from oatmeal to glue.
Previous research has shown that toddlers learn more readily about solid objects because they can easily identify them due to their unchanging size and shape.
New research shows that changes if you put toddlers in a setting they know well, such as shoving stuff in their mouths.
"In those instances, word learning increases, because children at that age are used to seeing nonsolid things in this context, when they're eating, and if you expose them to these things when they're in a highchair, they do better," Larissa Samuelson, associate professor in psychology said.
Samuelson and her team tested their idea by exposing 16-month-olds to 14 nonsolid objects, mostly food and drinks such as applesauce, pudding, juice, and soup.
They presented the items and gave them made-up words, such as "dax" or "kiv."
A minute later, they asked the children to identify the same food in different sizes or shapes.
Not surprisingly, many children gleefully dove into this task by poking, prodding, touching, feeling, eating, throwing al the non-solids in order to understand what they were and make the correct association with the hypothetical names.
The toddlers who interacted the most with the food items were more likely to correctly identify them by their texture and name them, the study determined.
It was also found that children in a high chair were more apt to identify and name the food than those in other venues, such as seated at a table.
Samuelson claimed that it turns out that being in a high chair makes it more likely that you'll get messy, because kids know they can get messy there.
The authors say that the exercise shows how children's behavior, environment and exploration help them acquire an early vocabulary learning that is linked to better later cognitive development and functioning.
The findings are published in the journal Developmental Science.
--ANI (Posted on 02-12-2013)