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Research by Dr. Eric Walle and Graduate Student Lukas Lopez Suggests an Instructive Way to Talk to Little Crawlers

August 3, 2021
A baby’s first steps is more than just an event to share with loved ones; it is a major developmental transition that changes nearly every aspect of the child’s life. Research by Professor Eric Walle has demonstrated that infants understand and say more words as they transition from crawling to walking, independent of their age. Walle has replicated this finding multiple times, as well found it in different languages and countries. However, the explanation for this difference in language learning remains an open question. One possibility may lie in how infants interact with objects and the type of feedback that they get from their caregiver. To examine this possibility, Professor Walle and his graduate student, Lukas Lopez, recently investigated how caregivers talked to their crawling and walking infant about acting on objects, and how such interactions corresponded with infant language development. In the first study Walle and Lopez used daylong audio recordings collected in the home, whereas the second study used video recordings of parent-child interactions observed in the lab. Infants were the same age in both studies, but half were crawling and half were walking. In both studies, we found that caregiver encouragement to their infant to act on objects (e.g., push the ball; turn the block) was associated with increased vocabulary size for the crawling infants, not the walking infants. Walle and Lopez theorize that caregiver encouragement to crawling infants may help to create rich language learning opportunities, whereas such encouragement is less important for walking infants because they can already create such opportunities given their more advanced motor abilities. In short, following in on what your crawling infant is doing and encouraging them to act on objects in their environment can lead to language outcomes similar to those as their walking peers.
Read more here.