Baby Talk

What babies can learn from objects that interest them.

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Every parent knows that infants gobble up new words. But 10-month-old babies tend to learn the words for objects that interest them as opposed to objects that bore them, a study has found. Researchers showed various items to babies, including a sparkly wand and a colorful, noisy party clacker. They found that the infants learned the names for these items, but not for such boring objects as a beige bottle opener and white cabinet latch. To enhance language development, parents should "label" things their baby shows interest in, rather than what they find fascinating, says child psychologist Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., of Temple University. By 18 months, babies tend to use the speaker's interest as a guide to learning words.

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