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Learning to Talk: Generalization

Learning to Talk: GeneralizationIt’s exciting when kids start saying words. My daughter was an early talker, and combined with her petite stature we got plenty of amazed stares when she would speak to people in public. My son also had the propensity toward learning longer words a lot faster than other kids his age. At an early age he once told a lady that something was “enormous” and when she looked at him with a shocked face he sympathetically said, “That means big.”

Despite their early verbal skills, I still worried that maybe they weren’t learning how to speak exactly as they should. I think most parents do like I did; they alternate between being incredibly proud of their kids’ new speaking skills, yet worry that any little thing may be an indicator that there is something cognitively wrong with their kids’ learning ability. Yes, it’s normal to worry about these things, so don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself hypervigilant.

What is Generalization?

Let me help you with one thing you may be worried about when your child starts talking: generalization. This is the term that is used to describe how many young children label things in lumps. For example, all four legged animals might be labeled “cat” by your child, or every woman may be declared  “Momma.” Most kiddos do this when they are first learning to talk, and not only is it completely normal but it’s expected.

This is simply one of the ways that young kids use what they already know about the world to interpret new things they experience. Think about it; if you encountered something new you had never seen before, you would probably try to relate it to something else you already know in an attempt to understand it. Young children just don’t have as extensive a history in world experiences, so the generalizations will seem more, well, generalized.

So if your new talker declares a horse to be a cow or a desk to be a table, don’t fret. It’s just another one of the many verbal and cognitive steps your brilliant child will go through.


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