You know the feeling of trying to follow recipe instructions while the dishwasher, Curious George, and tiny toddler voices make it impossible to hear yourself think? Well, according to a recent study, all this background noise is hurting your child's ability to learn language too.
There has been quite a bit of coverage on how noise and distractions can impair the learning process in kids, but this is the first time we're getting data on how the background noise affects learning words.
"These initial word learning experiences are very foundational for how kids succeed later in life," Brianna McMillan, a psychology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and lead author on the study told NPR.
A group of 40 toddlers were taught new words in sentences while background conversation was present. The conversations were meant to replicate either human conversation, chatter of siblings, or the often present drone of television or radio in our homes. Half of the group heard the noise at a lower level, while the other half heard louder conversations.
The researchers then taught the toddlers new words using images on a screen, still with the background noise playing.
The study found that only the toddlers who heard lower volumes of noise were able to learn new words.
So, does this mean you can't ever play Pandora while you're playing or reading books with your kids? Probably not.
"In a final experiment, the scientists allowed 26 toddlers to hear new words in sentences in a quiet room and then taught them the meanings of the words under the louder background noise condition. This group of toddlers did successfully learn the new words," reported NPR.
With this, I think we're all going to be OK. Take some time to talk with your toddlers and play with them without any distractions. This quiet time may be the ticket to them being capable of learning more quickly in typical, noisy environments.