Toddlers Learning by Data Mining

Data mining is a technique of analyzing and sorting massive amounts of raw data to find relationships and correlations between data resulting in useful information. Financial analysts and researchers in a number of scientific fields use computers to process the large amounts of data. Now researchers at Indiana University are studying the new theory that young children use this technique to learn words rapidly.

Recent findings published in the journal Cognition, show 12- to 14-month-old children were able to figure out which picture went with a particular word after being shown two objects on a computer monitor while hearing two words read to them. After viewing various combinations of words and images, the children were surprisingly successful at matching words to the correct picture.

Researchers Linda Smith and Chen Yu theorize the more words young children hear and the more information is available for any individual word, the better a child’s brain can begin simultaneously ruling out and putting together word-object pairings. This finding supports the idea of providing children with a word-rich environment. It also points out how even very young children who can not yet speak are learning from the world around them. Here are three things you can do to provide your child with an environment rich in words and their meanings.

Talk to your child. Start talking to your baby as soon as he is born. Many studies show the importance of a parent talking directly to their babies and young children as the best foundation for learning language. Babies need to see how parents shape their mouths to form words so hold your baby close and talk to him. Discuss what you are doing and experiencing at the time. The baby then has both the words he is hearing and the sensations he is experiencing to tie together. For example, talk your baby through his bath, describing the temperature of the water, the feel of the washcloth, and the yellow rubber duck floating on the water. When your child is a baby you will naturally use “baby-ese” with elongated vowels and a higher pitch to your voice. Studies show “baby-ese” is easier for your baby to understand because of how the ear and auditory sense develops. When your child reaches toddler stage, you will probably just as naturally shift to speaking in a more normal tone of voice. At this point you will want to talk with your child as if you were talking with an older child or adult. Use a broad vocabulary. Explain words as you go by including definition information as you talk. “There is a big brown cow. Cows are bigger than our dog Sam. Cows also live in fields like this where as Sam lives with us in the house. Cows talk to one another by saying moo. Can you say moo?”

Read daily. You can start reading to your child as soon as you become 6 months pregnant. That’s because a fetus completes the auditory nerve connection at this time. Reading short rhythmic poems, rhyming books, or singing songs seems to work really well. Babies have been found to quickly recognize rhyming passages. Read aloud for at least ten minutes each day. Repeat what you read often. The repetition allows the fetus, and later the baby, to associate the reading with what they have previously heard. As your baby grows, expand what you read.

Name things. As you go through your day with your child, name the items you pick up or see. Let your baby or toddler handle any object which they can safely manage. This process gives the child a direct association with an object, its name, and other sensory input about the object. The more senses that get triggered the better, as the brain will build multiple pathways to associate the object with its name. Adding descriptive information is helpful as well. “Here is a wooden spoon. Listen to the sound it makes when it hits the floor. Isn’t the spoon smooth to touch?” The spoon will probably end up in the baby’s mouth. That’s just fine as babies learn a great deal about their environment from using their fingers and mouths. Just make sure the objects are clean, non-toxic, and too large to be swallowed.

New studies in the field of learning reveal more about how the brain works at the earliest stages of human life. Babies start learning language even before they are born. By providing a word-rich environment, you can support your child’s rapid acquisition of language.

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