Noisy places may hold kids back from picking up new words

Washington D.C, Jul 21 : Your toddler may take longer to learn new words if he or she spends a lot of time in noisy places, suggests a recent study. The University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that the presence of background noise in the home or at school makes it more difficult for toddlers to learn new words. It also found that providing additional language cues may help young children overcome the effects of noisy environments. "Learning words is an important skill that provides a foundation for children's ability to achieve academically," noted lead author Brianna McMillan. McMillan added, "Modern homes are filled with noisy distractions such as TV, radio, and people talking that could affect how children learn words at early ages. Our study suggests that adults should be aware of the amount of background speech in the environment when they're interacting with young children." In the study, 106 children ages 22 to 30 months took part in three experiments in which they were taught names for unfamiliar objects and then tested on their ability to recognize the objects when they were labeled. In sum, the study shows that while louder background speech hindered toddlers' ability to learn words, cues in the environment helped them overcome this difficulty. "Hearing new words in fluent speech without a lot of background noise before trying to learn what objects the new words corresponded to may help very young children master new vocabulary," suggested coauthor Jenny Saffran. "But when the environment is noisy, drawing young children's attention to the sounds of the new word may help them compensate." The research appears in the journal Child Development.