COVID-19 first lockdown as a window into language acquisition: associations between caregiver-child activities and vocabulary gains

  • Natalia Kartushina (University of Oslo)
  • Nivedita Mani (University of Goettingen)
  • Aslı Aktan-Erciyes (Kadir Has University)
  • Khadeejah Alaslani (Purdue University)
  • Naomi J. Aldrich (Grand Valley State University)
  • Alaa Almohammadi (King Abdulaziz University)
  • Haifa Alroqi (King Abdulaziz University)
  • Lucy M. Anderson (Brigham Young University)
  • Elena Andonova (New Bulgarian University)
  • Suzanne Aussems (University of Warwick)
  • Mireille Babineau (University of Toronto)
  • Mihaela Barokova (Boston University)
  • Christina Bergmann (MPI for Psycholinguistics)
  • Cara Cashon (University of Louisville)
  • Stephanie Custode (University of Miami)
  • Alex de Carvalho (Université de Paris)
  • Nevena Dimitrova (Haute Ecole de Travail Social de Lausanne)
  • Agnieszka Dynak (University of Warsaw)
  • Rola Farah (Technion)
  • Christopher Fennell (University of Ottawa)
  • Anne-Caroline Fiévet (Ecole normale supérieure)
  • Michael C Frank (Stanford University)
  • Margarita Gavrilova (Lomonosov Moscow State University)
  • Hila Gendler-Shalev (University of Haifa)
  • Shannon P. Gibson (Oxford Brookes University)
  • Katherine Golway (University of Louisville)
  • Nayeli Gonzalez-Gomez (Oxford Brookes University)
  • Ewa Haman (University of Warsaw)
  • Erin Hannon (University of Nevada Las Vegas)
  • Naomi Havron (University of Haifa)
  • Jessica Hay (University of Tennessee)
  • Cielke Hendriks (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)
  • Tzipi Horowitz-kraus (Technion)
  • Marina Kalashnikova (Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language)
  • Junko Kanero (Sabancı University)
  • Christina Keller (University of Göttingen)
  • Grzegorz Krajewski (University of Warsaw)
  • Catherine Laing (Cardiff University)
  • Rebecca A. Lundwall (Brigham Young University)
  • Magdalena Łuniewska (University of Warsaw)
  • Karolina Mieszkowska (University of Warsaw)
  • Luis Muñoz (University of Oslo)
  • Karli Nave (University of Nevada Las Vegas)
  • Nonah Olesen (University of Louisville)
  • Lynn Perry (University of Miami)
  • Caroline Frances Rowland orcid logo (MPI for Psycholinguistics)
  • Daniela Santos Oliveira (University of Tennessee)
  • Jeanne Shinskey (Royal Holloway University of London)
  • Aleksander Veraksa (Lomonosov Moscow State University)
  • Kolbie Vincent (University of Louisville)
  • Michal Zivan (Technion)
  • Julien Mayor (University of Oslo)


The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting closure of daycare centers worldwide, led to unprecedented changes in children’s learning environments. This period of increased time at home with caregivers, with limited access to external sources (e.g., daycares) provides a unique opportunity to examine the associations between the caregiver-child activities and children’s language development. The vocabularies of 1742 children aged8-36 months across 13 countries and 12 languages were evaluated at the beginning and end of the first lockdown period in their respective countries(from March to September 2020). Children who had less passive screen exposure and whose caregivers read more to them showed larger gains in vocabulary development during lockdown, after controlling for SES and other caregiver-child activities. Children also gained more words than expected (based on normative data) during lockdown; either caregivers were more aware of their child’s development or vocabulary development benefited from intense caregiver-child interaction during lockdown.

Keywords: COVID-19 pandemic, vocabulary development, book reading, passive screen exposure, multi-country, pre-registered, longitudinal study

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Published on
06 Feb 2022
Peer Reviewed