Babies develop the ability to count earlier than you thought!

Children 15 Apr 2021 Contributor
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ability to count
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The moment children utter the first word is very special for the parents. Babies usually can understand few gestures like ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘bye-bye’ etc. at the age of 9 months and they usually start saying words when they are 12-18 months old. It was believed that children at the age of four grow the concept of numbers and counting. A team of researchers from the John Hopkins University found that babies grow the ability to count earlier than that. The findings of the study were published in the Developmental Science journal.

How did the researchers conduct this study on the ability to count?

The team worked with 14-18 months, old infants. Toys like little dogs or cars were put in a box which the children can’t see but can reach to them. The researchers then used to count the toys loud and then put them into a box in one instance. For another scenario, they used to say like, “This, this, this and this – these dogs” while putting the toys into the box without counting the number. It was then found that for the babies it is difficult to count the toys in the second scenario. But for the first case, when the researchers used to pull one toy from the box, the children would expect more toys to come out of the box.

What do we learn about the counting ability of the babies?

This study reveals that at a very early age, earlier than what was believed, the infants develop a sense of counting keeping in mind the quantities by simply hearing. According to Lisa Feigenson, a cognitive scientist associated with this study, “Babies try to make sense of what they hear and that includes the domain of counting and numbers, even when they are years away from understanding the exact meanings of number words.”

This is a surprising and first of its kind findings which concludes that infants have a sense of counting and they tied it to the rough dimension of quantity in the world. The team is now engaged in more follow-up studies where they are trying to find if this early counting habit contributes to later number skills and whether babies can react to counting in languages other than the mother tongue.