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Life Lessons: Do babies know what words mean?

Babies typically speak their first words by around one year of age, but a new study shows they might understand a lot more than they say.

Babies might sound like they’re speaking their own language, but a new study shows they may understand ours.

Researchers from the University of Rochester used eye-tracking technology to see if infants recognized the meaning of certain words. They showed the babies images of objects and had a caregiver name them.

At just six months old, babies spent less time looking at the named image when the two objects were related. This implies that they knew that the meanings of some words were more alike than others. For example, they were able to tell words and concepts like “car” and “stroller” were more alike than words like “car” and “juice.”

This study highlights the importance of communicating with your baby. Experts say talk to them as often as you can in a one-on-one environment. Remember while your baby may not speak it – he still might understand it.

In an earlier 2012 study at the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that six- to nine-month-olds already have a basic understanding of words for food and body parts.


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