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Parents’ verbal stumbles may help kids learn new words, study says

Author GreatDad Writers
Submitted 19-04-2011

Fumbling for words in front of your kids may make you feel a bit embarrassed, but a new study suggests that it may actually be beneficial. Researchers from the University of Rochester believe that toddlers can use their parents "ums" and "uhs" to more effectively learn new words.

The advantages lie in the fact that struggling to find a word can indicate to young children that you are about to teach them something new, and researchers say that this indicates that your kids may know to pay closer attention.

The study focused on a group of children who were all between 18 and 30 months old and showed them two images, one of a familiar object and one of a made-up image. When a recorded voice talking about the object stumbled, the children looked at the unknown object about 70 percent of the time. While researchers aren't saying moms and dads should intentionally change the way they talk, the findings are a reassuring to those less-than-articulate parents.

"We're not advocating that parents add disfluencies to their speech, but I think it's nice for them to know that using these verbal pauses is OK – the 'uhs' and 'ums' are informative," lead author Celeste Kidd said.

The study comes after a similarly interesting finding regarding how children learn to speak. According to a study conducted at the University of British Columbia, infants may be just as capable of learning two languages as adults.