Big benefits in counting nuggets
Pre-school children can be given a flying start in language and maths if their parents interact with them correctly, research suggests.
Studies show a strong link between gestures, pointing at objects and the ability of very young children to pick up vocabulary.
Relating numbers to the real world, for instance by counting chicken nuggets on a plate, was said to be important for promoting understanding of maths.
Psychologists attending a major scientific meeting in Boston, USA, spelled out what parents have to do to provide the springboard that will help their children grow up with good language and maths skills.
For language, the critical time was around the age of one, before a child had even learned to speak.
Dr Meredith Rowe, from Harvard University, said there was a major gap in language achievement between children from poorer and better off backgrounds.
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, Dr Rowe said: "There's this window of opportunity when children are just getting into their productive communication, 10 months to about 18 months."
Colleague Dr Liz Gunderson, from Temple University, USA, found that pre-school interaction had a similar impact on maths ability.
"If you're talking about the three chicken nuggets on your plate you can actually see the three chicken nuggets," said Dr Gunderson. "If you're playing hide and seek and counting to 10 that's not quite as useful."