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The primary goal of this study was to specify age-related improvements in young children’s use of the complex spatial terms between and middle in response to prompting and overhearing supports. Three- to 5-year-old children described the location of a mouse hidden between two furniture items in a dollhouse. Three prompting conditions (Between Directive, Middle Directive, Nondirective) were compared with two overhearing conditions (Overhearing Between, Overhearing Middle). Children’s use of between and middle was much more frequent in response to directive prompting than in response to nondirective prompting or overhearing. Only 4-5-year-old children showed some evidence of using middle in response to nondirective prompting and overhearing, demonstrating developmental gains in sensitivity to subtle cues. The secondary goal was to assess young children’s production and comprehension of between and middle using tasks suitable for young children and parent report checklists. As expected, children’s spatial language showed strong developmental improvement and was related to direction-giving performance.


This article was originally published in the journal Cognitive Development.