The study, published in the ‘Developmental Science’ journal, observed 52 children between the ages of 1 and 4 interact with their parents during 9-90 minute sessions.
Researchers kept track of how many spatial words the children used during the sessions and found that while some used as few as 4, others used up to 191.
The children were then set tasks like having to picture the rotation of shapes in their heads, or select a picture from a number of options that best matched another.
Results found that for every 45 extra words a child used, their ability to perform the task would increase by 15-23%.
Professor Susan Levine, who led the study, said: “Our results suggest that children’s talk about space early in development is a significant predictor of their later spatial thinking.”
Spatial thinking offers the foundations for building mathematical and scientific skills, and could determine how well a child prospers in these subjects later in life.
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