Parents who constantly find themselves wiping food off the high chair, the table, the walls, the ceiling and even the dog after a meal should take heart. A new study suggests that in making all that mess, their child is learning. Researchers from the University of Iowa (UI) studied how 16 month olds learn the words for non-solid objects—things as oatmeal or applesauce or milk—that infants generally take longer to learn and found that those who messed with the substance the most learned the words more quickly.
The kids who had really got their hands—and sometimes the walls or floors—dirty, seemed to be the ones who understood the differences in texture or viscosity better. All that fooling around was actually learning. It also helped if they were in a high chair. “It turns out that being in a high chair makes it more likely you’ll get messy, because kids know they can get messy there,” said Larissa Samuelson, associate professor in psychology at UI, who with doctoral student Lynn Perry and others, oversaw the Developmental Science paper. “Playing with these foods there actually helped these children in the lab, and they learned the names better.”
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