Even though your baby may be years away from being able to understand and say her numbers, she already has a grasp on the concept of counting, according to a new Johns Hopkins University study.
Their findings, published in Developmental Science, reveal that very early on, far earlier than previously believed, babies who hear objects being counted realise that it’s about quantity.
According to the senior author of the study, Lisa Feigenson, a cognitive scientist who specialises in the development of numeric ability in children, most children don’t understand the full meaning of number words until they’re about 4-years-old. This, she says is surprising, considering “we buy counting books for babies and we count aloud with them from an early age. (Remember how you’d count your baby’s fingers and toys to get her to smile?)
For the researchers, it raised the question whether kids are really clueless about what counting means until they’re in their preschool years.
To find out, they worked with 80 infants aged between 14 and 20 months. They performed 5 tests, all which involved hiding toys – either dogs or cars – inside an opaque box.
The children tended to lose interest when the toys were not counted before being hidden. But when the researchers counted the toys, the toddlers were better at remembering the number of toys and continued to look in the box to try to find them all.
“These results were actually really surprising because all the prior research of the past decade has shown how difficult it is for children to master the meaning of count words,” said Jenny Wang, a former graduate student at Johns Hopkins and one of the study authors.
“Our results are the first to show that very young infants have a sense that, when other people are counting, it is tied to the rough dimension of quantity in the world.”
Watch the video of the study below:
Content editor and writer on Living & Loving, Sonya has over 25 years experience in the media industry. She edited Living & Loving magazine for six-and-a-half years and is the former editor of Longevity magazine. She’s won numerous media industry awards and is passionate about the health and wellbeing of moms and children.
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