Learning words about size, shape may improve spatial skills in children, which are important in mathematics, science and technology, suggests study.
The University of Chicago study found that preschool children who hear parents use words describing the size and shape of objects and who then use those words in their day-to-day interactions do much better on tests of their spatial skills.
These are skills that physicists and engineers rely on to take an abstract idea, conceptualise it and turn it into a real-world process, action or device, for example.
Researchers found that 1- to 4-year-olds who heard and then spoke 45 additional spatial words that described sizes and shapes saw, on average, a 23 percent increase in their scores on a non-verbal assessment of spatial thinking.
"Our results suggest that children's talk about space early in development is a significant predictor of their later spatial thinking," said University of Chicago psychologist Susan Levine, an author of the study.
"In view of findings that show spatial thinking is an important predictor of STEM achievement and careers, it is important to explore the kinds of early inputs that are related to the development of thinking in this domain," said Levine and colleagues.
STEM-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics-education is seen as vitally important for the next generation of science and technology innovators in the 21st century.
The finding was published on the research in the current issue of Developmental Science.