Download Full Text (1.7 MB)


Infants learn from interaction with physical objects in their environments. Object construction, or merging individual objects into a single structure, has been linked previously to language. Items and toys can be structured and combined with similarity to word combinations (Greenfield, 1991). Infants initially combine 2 objects and then graduate on to combine 3 pieces or more. Words are put together in comparable ways, with each word corresponding to an object, and a sentence corresponding to a single structure. The purpose of this project is to explore how construction ability in infants affects language ability in toddlers. We hypothesize that the more advanced the infant’s construction ability at 14 months, the more advanced their language ability will be at 24 months. Methods: At 14 months of age, 47 infants were given 2 sets of nesting cups to assess construction strategy while video-recorded (Greenfield, Nelson, & Saltzman, 1972). Construction strategies coded included “nothing,” (no cup combination), “pairing,” (one cup placed on or inside another cup), and “potting,” (two or more cups placed in or stacked on a third cup). Expressive and receptive language was assessed at 2 years of age using the Preschool Language Scales, 5th edition. Data was analyzed with a regression model, using Hierarchical Linear Modeling 7 (Student version). Results: Infants who combined objects scored higher on expressive language (βs 9.52-14.3, ts(44) 2.19-2.62, ps 0.01-0.03), than infants who did not combine objects at 14 months (β00=92.82). No differences were found for construction strategy and receptive language (βs 5.49-11.79, ts(44) 1.67-0.98, ps > 0.102). Conclusion: The ability to combine cups at 14 months is related to higher expressive language scores. We speculate that the ability to combine toys lays a foundation for combining words into sentences, while language comprehension may originate from other mechanisms. Further studies may assess the number of objects paired successfully and the complexity of construction with success and complexity of sentence structure at different time points throughout early childhood.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)

Psychology, Developmental Psychology


psychology, developmental psychology, language, infants, toddlers, language development


Developmental Psychology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Stacey Dusing

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Dr. Emily Marcinowski


© The Author(s)

The Relation Between Infant Construction Strategy and Language Development in Toddlers