How Children Learn

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How Children Learn

Key Takeaways


This report provides insights into how children learn between 0-1 year. It includes social learning, culture-specific attunement, word-object association, daily exposure, and learning about food. Perception, repetition, and familiarity were some common themes - three ways children learn at this age.

Social Learning

Research Title: How Do Infants Learn? - 2021
  • According to this publication, toddlers between 0-12 months who are exposed to interaction and physical contact with other people learn to develop positive relationships with people, thus improving their social abilities.
  • Children a few days old learn by reading facial expressions, often copying and replicating the same when interacting with people. At this stage, children find facial expressions more fascinating than toys.
  • According to experts, children begin leveraging the information from people they interact with through their voice or expressions when they are between 3-6 months old.
  • Quite quickly, they start learning to tell different emotions by seeing how people react and express themselves.

Culture-Specific Attunement

Research Title: What Makes Babies Musical? Conceptions of Musicality in Infants and Toddlers - December 15, 2021
  • Children learn about their culture through music. They become sensitive to pitches and melodies within their first few months.
  • Most learning for children between 0-12 months is perceptual, and it extends to how they learn music.
  • Music-related perceptual abilities are universal for infants, and they recognize musical subtleties regardless of culture. However, over time, they develop culture-specific attunement.
  • For example, at six months old, infants' rhythmic perception adopts a culture-general pattern of musical rhythm response. However, one-year-olds exhibit a culture-specific response similar to that of adults.

Word-Object Association

Research Title: The Limits of Infants’ Early Word Learning - October 1, 2019
  • A study of infants' word-object association revealed that children learn words by recognition between the early ages of 0-12 months. The study tested the ability of children to learn word-object association in two tests.
  • According to one account during the experiment, "10-month-old infants may only acquire highly specific knowledge about new word-object associations: hile they recognize a referent if they have previously encountered that exact item alongside a label, they fail to generalize that label to new exemplars."
  • The test results strongly suggested that children aged 0-12 months exhibit systemic-looking behavior that indicates their proficient word-learning abilities. However, it also indicated the relevance of labels to how they learn.

Daily Exposure

Research Title: Do infants retain the statistics of a statistical learning experience? Insights from a developmental cognitive neuroscience perspective - Jan 5, 2017
  • This study revealed that daily exposure to information allows 8-month-old infants to learn and remember words for extended periods of up to two weeks.
  • In a procedure that involved ten home visits in which infants listened to audio recordings of a story, children listened longer to familiar words during the test.
  • However, the children exhibited learning after intense exposure to repetition.
  • Other studies revealed that children recognize familiar words without training when they are between 10-12 months old. However, those familiar words are often a part of their everyday life.

Learning About Food

Research Title: How Infants and Young Children Learn About Food: A Systematic Review - July 25, 2017
  • How infants learn about food further indicates that they learn primarily by familiarization.
  • According to a study that examined children between three months and three years old, infants can learn to appreciate foods they previously disliked if they become familiar with them.
  • Also, the introduction of specific tastes to three-month-old children increased acceptance for it compared with those over 12 months tasting it for the first time.
  • Although six-month-old children generally prefer salty foods, they strongly preferred them when they tasted salty foods the week before. However, children at 12 months did not associate food preference with how frequently/recently they consumed it.
  • This data indicates a decline in the impact of familiarity on learning for children between 6-12 months.

Research Strategy

We leveraged several academic research papers from the Academic Association of Pediatrics, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), and Frontiers Media. The available data for infants aged between 0-12 months was limited, as most research focused on infants in general, often with age brackets beyond what was requested. We then expanded to consulting research published earlier than Wonder's typical two-year timeframe. We ensured that they were credible publications and thus relevant to the research. We included five specific publications to match the insights provided. However, we provided supporting data from a few other sources to provide a more detailed report.

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