Building on what you have learned: Constructing skill during infancy influences the development of spatial relation words

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Object construction involves organizing multiple objects into a unified structure (e.g., stacking blocks into a tower) and may provide infants with unique spatial information. Because object construction entails placing objects in spatial locations relative to one another, infants can acquire information about spatial relations during construction activity. To acquire words representing spatial relations, children must link sensorimotor experience to their language system. It is proposed that the development of construction skills during infancy influences knowledge of words indicating spatial relations at three years. Infants who develop early construction skills are expected to comprehend more words describing spatial relations than infants who develop construction skills later. Infants were tested monthly with seven construction tasks from 10–14 months and were tested at three years for their comprehension of spatial relations words. In addition, both the Preschool Language Scales, 5th edition (PLS-5) (three years) and the Bayley cognitive sub-scale (two years) were assessed to examine whether infants with differing construction skills would perform differently on general language and cognitive abilities in infants, as well as spatial words. “High” constructors understood more spatial relations words than “low” constructors, although there were no differences for general language (PLS-5) or cognitive ability (Bayley cognitive sub-scale). Since infant construction skill did not also relate to general language or cognitive ability, rather only to comprehension of spatial words, object construction activity may uniquely afford opportunities for spatial information, which becomes relevant to the development of spatial words.

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International Journal of Behavioral Development

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