Taking Center Stage: Infants’ Active Role In Language Learning

  • Catherine S. Tamis-LeMondaEmail author
  • Yana Kuchirko
  • Daniel D. Suh


In this chapter, we highlight the ways that infants actively shape their social experiences around language—through their everyday behaviors and developmental advances. We review the perceptual, social, and cognitive capacities that infants bring to the task of learning language. We then show that infant real-time exploratory, play, communicative, and locomotor behaviors are impetuses for social interactions. As infants act on their worlds, they elicit temporally contingent, lexically rich, developmentally attuned, multimodal inputs from parents. Indeed, much of the speech that parents direct to infants is driven by what infants are doing in the moment. Finally, we examine how developmental changes in infants’ language, play, and motor skills expand infants’ opportunities for learning language. As infants progress in abilities such as talking and walking, they engage with the objects and people of their environments in new ways, thereby eliciting novel language inputs from parents and other caregivers.



Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda is at NYU’s Center for Research on Culture, Development and Education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. We thank the children and parents who have participated in our studies over the years and helped us discover the ways that children learn through the rich play and language interactions they share with parents. We acknowledge the support from the LEGO Foundation, which continues to advance our research on the science of everyday play. Correspondences can be sent to


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yana Kuchirko
    • 1
  • Daniel D. Suh
    • 1
  1. 1.Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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