Thursday, July 28, 2016

It is hard for toddlers to learn words in noisy rooms. Dah!

Today I read in the journal Child Development that toddlers have a hard time learning new words when the room is noisy.  My first response was, “Well, of course!” All kidding aside, the researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, did a good job with this study.

Most research of toddlers and learning is done in carefully organized laboratory conditions. This makes sense, the goal of the research is to test for one controlled change at a time. But, what Brianna McMillan (doctoral student) and her colleagues did, was test for learning in a more realistic environment. They pointed out:
Both younger (22- to 24-month-olds; n = 40) and older (28- to 30-month-olds; n = 40) toddlers successfully learned novel label–object pairings when target speech was 10 dB louder than background speech but not when the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) was 5 dB.

Most toddlers live and learn in the noisy, real world. The TV is on in the background, big sister is listening to music upstairs, or the radio is on in the car as mom and dad talk. Toddlers have the opportunity to learn words throughout their day.
Turn off the TV?
The findings show that it is best to teach toddlers new words in a calm environment. I am sure most parents know this. The implication of the study brings up that when a quiet space is not available, it may be detrimental to language growth. 
I have been a family therapist for 35 years. It is amazing to me how often parents fight me on “quiet time” in the house. I often suggest that during homework time, bath time, and bedtime, TV and radios should be turned off, allowing for easier communication between family members, and for personal thought time. I often hear, “We don’t really watch that much TV, we just keep it on for background noise.”
I suggest that limiting background noise is a good thing. 

Please let me know what you think by clicking the “comments” below.

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