Two-Year-Olds With Bigger Vocabularies Are More Prepared For School

If your two-year-old child has a better vocabulary than her or his peers, then he or she is likely to also have better math and language skills, as well as fewer behavioral problems once it’s time for kindergarten, according to a new study.

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University conducted the study, which has been published in the journal Child Development. They analyzed the nationally representative data of 8,650 children in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth cohort, asked parents to identify on a list of 50 common words how many of them 50 common words their children used when communicating at age two.

“Certain groups of populations at 24 months are more likely to show lower levels of vocabulary, and helping those kids who may be at risk is important,” lead author Paul L. Morgan told Reuters. “Having a smaller vocabulary even at this young age is predictive of lower kindergarten readiness.”

The study found that girls, children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, and children who had high-quality parenting all possessed wider vocabularies at two years old. Children who were born with lower birth weights, and children whose mothers had health problems, had smaller vocabularies.

Three years later, the children were rated on their behavioral self-regulation, the frequency of their acting out, and their anxious behavior. They were also tested on basic reading and math skills.

The children with bigger vocabularies when they were younger were more prepared academically and behaviorally for kindergarten. They achieved more in math and reading, behaved better, and had fewer anxiety-related issues.

This news may sound surprising, but previous research has shown similar results. One study found that children who attend preschools actually do 21% better on math and reading tests in kindergarten than their peers who don’t attend.

“Our findings provide compelling evidence for oral vocabulary’s theorized importance as a multifaceted contributor to children’s early development,” said Morgan in a press release. “Our findings are also consistent with prior work suggesting that parents who are stressed, overburdened, less engaged, and who experience less social support may talk, read, or otherwise interact with their children less frequently, resulting in their children acquiring smaller oral vocabularies.”

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