One of the most exciting milestones, for both you and your child, is when your child learns how to talk. If you have a young toddler, chances are that they already know and use a few simple words. But more words mean more power— power to better understand the world and power to better understand themselves. Of course, most kids will learn more words naturally over time, but jump-starting your toddler’s vocab can’t hurt! Even so, there’s no need to break out the flashcards or buy fancy learning aids; the best and most effective ways of teaching your toddler are actually free. This list of 6 Ways to Build Your Toddler’s Vocab will show you easy ways to introduce new words to your young toddler, so that they’re chatting up a storm by the time they’re ready for preschool.
1. Lead by example.
To your young toddler, you’re just about the coolest person in the world. They want to dress like you, act like you, and yes, talk like you! Arguably the best way to boost your toddler’s vocab is to talk to them… a lot. Narrate what you’re doing throughout the day and talk about things that they are doing as well. The more you say any given word, the more likely that they’ll pick up on it too!
2. Introduce new experiences.
Narrating daily life for your toddler is great, but if you have the same routine day after day, the number of new words they’re exposed to will still be limited. You can expose them to even more vocab by going to new places and seeing new things with your toddler. You don’t have to completely give up your routine to do this either. Even something as simple as changing the route of your daily walk can give you tons of new things to talk about. You can also try going to a different grocery store with different products, going to a new park, or trying out a new kid-friendly restaurant.
3. Introduce new people.
Spending time around different people can be just as helpful as spending time in different places when it comes to learning new words. Make sure your toddler has plenty of opportunities to play with kids their own age as well as older kids and adults. Since everyone experiences life differently, words that you don’t typically use could be commonplace to others.
4. Read to them.
Another great way to help your toddler grow their vocab is to read to them, and not just before bedtime. Your toddler will have a better chance at picking up new words if they are awake and excited rather than tired and cranky. Try to pick books with fun, colorful pictures that you can talk to them about. Books with “sound” words (like “boom!” and “splat!”) or actions (like “stomp” and “clap”) are also great for introducing new words while having fun.
5. Limit TV time.
While watching television can be entertaining, it’s easier for toddlers to learn new words when they hear those words in real life. Because of this, you should try to choose activities that involve more interaction and cut down on screen time. When your toddler does watch TV, stick around to watch the show with them. You can turn it into an interactive activity by asking them questions, pointing out fun things in the background of a scene, and acting out their favorite parts with them. That way, your toddler can still watch the shows they love while also working on their vocab.
6. Encourage them.
When children are first learning to talk, you might naturally feel the urge to correct their mistakes. But unless they ask for help pronouncing something, you should let them stumble through their words at first. Constantly being corrected quite simply makes things less fun, and toddlers learn best when they’re having fun! Instead, try adding to what they’ve already said to show that you understand and that you’re interested too.
With so many fancy, expensive learning aids promising to help your toddler become a master wordsmith, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and stressed out because, of course, all parents want what’s best for their children. Luckily, in this case, what’s best is not what costs the most money. Keeping learning simple and fun (and free!) will not only ensure that your toddler is building their vocab, but it will also get both of you excited about the process again.