Although we were children of the suburbs, my husband and I are raising our baby in New York City. It's a decision we question every now and then, like when our son called the stalls in his farm set "parking spaces" and thought a sky full of stars were really tiny airplanes whizzing above.
But as great as a backyard would be, we believe life in our melting pot of a neighborhood is pretty special, too. Some of my kid's best friends are fluent in Greek, Russian, and Spanish, and most are of different faiths. It's not uncommon for us to be in line at the grocery store or post office behind women in hijabs, men in turbans and parents with full tattoo sleeves.
Turns out, being exposed to so many languages, creeds, races and cultures is a pretty great thing for children. In fact, where you live could shape how open your baby is to people who are different from him. A new study from the University of Chicago has discovered that babies who grow up in a neighborhood where different languages are spoken are more willing to learn from adults who don't speak their native language, reports the Daily Mail.
The study involved 82 19-month-olds from English-speaking households in Chicago and Washington, D.C.; researchers used data from the U.S. Census to figure out how linguistically diverse their neighborhoods are. Then they conducted a series of tests to see how the children learned from and imitated adults who spoke a different language. In one test, for example, an English-speaking adult and a Spanish-speaking adult showed the babies how to use a toy in different ways. Unlike kids from more homogenous neighborhoods, children from multilingual areas imitated more of the Spanish speaker's actions.
"The current findings raise the possibility that infants may garner rich information from their contact with broader neighborhood environments," according to the study, which was recently published in Cognition. "For example, infants could learn about patterns in race and ethnicity as well as patterns in linguistic behavior."
Living in a diverse neighborhood can also benefit them as they grow older. "'[It] may keep children open to opportunities to learn from and interact with diverse social partners," says researcher Amanda Woodward.
Tell us: Is exposing your baby to different languages and cultures something you think about or try to do?
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