4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Toddler’s Vocabulary

Is your toddler starting to gain a few words but doesn’t have enough to tell you what he wants?  In the first post in this series (read more about additional strategies to grow vocabulary) you learned about using exposure, modeling, and play to increase vocabulary.

This post will help guide you with ways to expand your child’s vocabulary so that they do not become frustrated and can communicate their needs and wants more clearly.

Boost Your Toddler's Vocabulary

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Use Choices to Increase Vocabulary

Whether it be picking out a snack or what to wear for the day give your little one the opportunity to choose.  This not only exposes your child to new words but also gives them MOTIVATION to use their words to communicate.

Here is what it should look like:  Do you want goldfish or Cheerios? (by asking them you are modeling both of these words that you want to be part of their vocabulary.  If possible hold up the two items for your child to see.


Give them time to respond.  If they point to their desired choice that’s great!  You then take that item and repeat its name-Cheerios?


Give them the opportunity to repeat the name.  If they don’t…that’s ok!  The goal is to get your child to the point where you can ask them a simple question and they can let you know what they need or want using words.

What if your child doesn’t point to what they want?  You will need to watch their cues and their eyes to know what they want if they are not pointing yet.  Hold up the two objects and see which one they are drawn to.  They may just gaze over  very quickly at it so you need to pay close attention.  Then give your child the desired choice.

Do not expect this to work the first time…or the second.  For this to be effective it needs to be done consistently and will take some practice.  Use choices when you can fit it in-mealtimes, getting dressed, or even asking what toy they want to play with next are all good times.

Building Phrases to Increase Vocabulary

Once your child has started to master some words it is time to build on to what they say.  If you are looking at books (this book would work well) and he points and says “duck” add-on to that by repeating back “yellow duck.”  This simple strategy can be used while looking at books to help build vocabulary while engaging your young reader (read more about the benefits of early literacy.)

Try it out during a walk with your little one by talking about what you see.  If she points out the flower, add-on a descriptive word such as a color or size.


One of the most natural ways to model and create repetition of words is through singing.  Whether it be “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “5 Little Monkeys” this is a simple way to engage your child in a rich language activity at any time or any place.

It doubles as a distraction if you sing to your wiggle worm while trying to change that dirty diaper.  Serenade your little one on your way to the grocery store.  These are just a couple of ways to work this strategy into your day, I bet you can think of a few more!

Target Words to Increase Vocabulary

Pick target words that you want your child to learn during playtime or a daily routine.  For example, if your toddler is getting dressed you might pick the words: on, off, and socks.  Then every time your child is getting dressed you make sure to use these words consistently.  This also works well when trying to teach your child a second language.

Imaginary play provides a PERFECT opportunity to try out these strategies as well. You can read more about the benefits of imaginary play here.

Using these four techniques you are helping your child build their vocabulary through daily activities and routines.

It may work best for you to use all three strategies throughout your day or just focus on one at a time. Being consistent when using any strategy will help you have results sooner.

Need some ideas for activities for your toddler? Makes sure to sign up for the FREE 7-Day Toddler Challenge!

Related Posts You Will Enjoy


Top 10 Non-Toy Gifts for Toddlers That Rock

Toddler Resource Page

How I Taught My Toddler Spanish and You Can Too

10 Things to Have Your Toddler Watch Instead of TV

The Benefits of Imaginary Play in Toddlers

5 Fun Bath Toys that Encourage Development

Don’t forget to download the free cheat sheet on strategies to grow your child’s vocabulary!  It works well to hang it on the fridge so that you can work on them throughout your day!


If you like what you read then find me on Facebook for more tips and tricks on how to encourage your child’s development!

Increase Your Toddler's Speech

Simple Ways to Boost Your Toddler's Speech

About Kayla ONeill

This is me and my beautiful bouncing baby boy! Before my little guy arrived I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education Birth to 21 as well as my Masters in Education. For six years I worked as an Early Interventionist serving children and families from birth to age three before becoming a stay at home mom to be with my son.

3 comments on “4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Toddler’s Vocabulary

    • Glad you enjoyed the post and found it helpful. It is so exciting to experience language skills developing. Using choices is a VERY effective strategy!

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