Though speech varies widely among toddlers, over the course of the year, you’ll notice Baby trying to use more words to express his needs and ideas. Language is all around him, and listening to and playing with you will be his biggest source of developing that ever-growing vocabulary. Since toddlers learn through play, here are some fun ideas to help your budding linguist develop more words with each passing day.
- Read interactive books: While adults may not consider reading to be a game, for children, listening to stories is exciting and educational. Reading with Baby is one of the best ways to expand his vocabulary, since books not only introduce new words, but also put them into context so that he can start to understand what they mean. You can make storytime even more interactive by asking Baby to point out and label items he sees on the page, talk about what the characters in the story might be feeling, or to predict what he expects will happen next in the story.
- Sing children’s songs: Nursery rhymes and other learning songs are appealing to young children not just because of their catchy tunes, but also because they use repetition, repeat-after-me, rhyming, and other ways to make sure the songs stick in little minds. Listening to and singing nursery rhymes will teach Baby about rhyming words, and about patterns of speech. Songs with accompanying videos geared toward toddlers can also help teach about numbers, letters, colors, and more.
- Give two options: When going about your day, ask Baby lots of questions, and prompt him to give you an answer. For example, ask him whether he wants apples or yogurt for a snack, then repeat his answer while holding up his choice. This will reinforce the word for him, and also help him make the connection between the word and the object.
- Explore new environments: Set out on a hike and point out objects you see in nature that might not be around in your regular daily routine. Show Baby things like bluebirds in the trees, yellow flowers in the ground, and use as many words to describe what you see as possible to effectively introduce new phrases.
- Use a theme: Don’t just let a game of playing with Baby’s toy barn stop there – use it as an opportunity to expand upon the items with which you’re both playing. Identify the animals you have, then follow up with the noise each animal makes. Show him how the barn door opens so the farmer can go in and out, talk about how the animals walk up and down the hill, and just generally use the game as a way to start to build up Baby’s vocabulary of location words.
All toddlers develop at their own pace, and this is especially true of language development. Around age 2, most toddlers can use about 50 words, and by age 3 that number generally grows to 200 words or more. Keep chatting with Baby as you play, and you’ll be amazed at how much your conversations change by the end of the year!