I’m part of a mommy forum for babies born in the same month and year as my daughter. One of the main concerns at this age of 18-19 months is learning to talk. This article focuses on how to increase toddler vocabulary.
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First, there is no magical, instant solution to get your toddler to start speaking full sentences. If there was, we would all be doing it and it wouldn’t be a general concern for toddler moms.
There are many factors that impact language development in children. Some toddlers just start earlier than others. Most second and third time parents say it varies from child to child, even within the same household.
Even though there is no clear cut solution, I do believe there are ways that we can assist with increasing a toddler’s vocabulary. Once your child is eighteen months, they may experience a ‘language explosion’. At this point, your toddler learns 8-10 words per day.
I’ll admit, when I read that, I was pretty skeptical. How could my little gibberish speaking toddler learn 8 words a day? But, when she turned 18 months, I saw the rapid rise in her vocabulary.
Every day since then, she is constantly learning new words and mimicking our phrases and expressions. I started to make a conscious effort with my language when one day my daughter said, “Oh shoot!”
So, if you’re wondering how to increase toddler vocabulary, here is what is working for us.
I find that my daughter enjoys first word books and number books more than anything. At 19 months, she’s not interested in books with a story line unless it is repetitive or has a lift the flap feature.
Read every single day. Yes, sometimes it’s hard, especially when your toddler wants to read the same book 5 times in a row.
Lately, my toddler will ask me to read a book and wander off to do something else when I’m in the middle of it. But if I stop reading, she instantly wants me to keep going. I’m convinced that she likes to hear my voice as background noise.
These are the books she wants to read over and over again.
- First 100 Words books. This also comes in different versions like First 100 animals and First 100 Christmas words.
- Lift the Flap books. Her absolute favorite is Dear Zoo, followed by Baby Feminists.
- ABC Books. She particularly enjoys ABC books that identify a word for each letter. We usually sing the ABCs before and after the book.
- Disney book set. I received a Disney baby book set from a friend who is a teacher. It’s one of my daughter’s favorites and teaches very basic concepts like opposites, shapes, colors, and numbers. Each book features popular Disney characters throughout and labels the pictures nicely.
Do you ever get bored reading the same books over and over again? Recently, my neighbor told me that our local library lets children check out a basket of books every week. That’s amazing! We may look into this once our state’s Covid restrictions ease up.
I know, I am a nerd and couldn’t resist getting flashcards for my daughter. Well, it turns out she likes them too.
When I first introduced them to her, she would put the cards in her mouth and bend them out of shape. Working with flashcards is definitely a supervised play activity.
Most of the time, I’ll take the cards and lay out four or five in front of her and ask her to show me the ‘apple’ or the ‘frog’. She gets really excited when we play this game.
When she correctly identifies the object, I affirm that she’s correct. If she doesn’t identify the correct object, I say something like “this is the apple” while pointing to the correct card.
Picture flashcards are a great way for toddlers to start associating words with common objects. And a set of flashcards is a few bucks, so it doesn’t hurt to try it out.
Educational learning posters
I don’t remember where I first saw these learning posters, but I thought they were amazing. My daughter is always looking at pictures in the house, pointing and trying to label them. So, I knew these would be perfect for her.
The posters are more budget friendly than I thought and come in a few different sizes. Since we are limited on space in my daughter’s nursery, I chose a smaller set. I paid $12.99 for ten 11×16 inch posters.
Once we got them, I picked out four and hung them at her eye-level. Since these are preschool level posters, I chose the ones that were most appropriate for a 19 month old: colors, numbers 1-10, farm animals, and the alphabet.
My toddler enjoys having them. She likes for me to read all the colors and she’s starting to count along when I read and point to the numbers.
I’ll eventually get around to putting up the rest of them as she gets older. Overall, they are great as a visually appealing learning aid. They would also be perfect for an at-home classroom setting if your child is attending school via Zoom.
We sing nursery rhymes or lullabies every day. I find that the repetition is a good way for my toddler to start mimicking and learning words and phrases.
I’ve noticed recently that she’s starting to sing along with me, which is the cutest thing ever. When we sing “Wheels on the bus,” she’ll chime in at the end and sing “all through the town.”
The wheels on the bus go round and round,-traditional American folk song written in the 1930’s
round and round,
round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all through the town.
Since we’re also starting to see tantrums at this age, I find that singing is a good way to redirect the tantrum. Lately, our toddler is fighting diaper changes, so I’ll start singing to get through a diaper change.
Final thoughts on how to increase toddler vocabulary
As with almost anything in life, consistency is key. We practice some variation of the above every day with our 19 month old. I used to keep track of her words, but after she hit the eighteen month mark, I couldn’t keep up with the vocabulary explosion.
As she gets older, there will be more opportunities to develop her language skills, including pretend play and communicating with friends at daycare.
I am cherishing the moments we have together now, but I’m so excited to have conversations with our little girl. If you have other suggestions on how to increase toddler vocabulary, comment below!