It is such an exciting milestone when toddlers begin talking. If you have a toddler or have the opportunity to watch another develop, you would probably have noticed that their first words are (almost) always the names of people and/or things (nouns), like Mama, Dada, ball, car, bottle, dog.
But once your toddler can say a few common words, you need to begin to expand his vocabulary to include different kinds of words. Your toddler also needs to learn words for actions (verbs), locations (prepositions), and descriptions (adjectives/adverbs), so that he can combine these to form phrases.
Toddlers typically begin to produce phrases when their vocabularies are close to 50 words, which should happen between the ages of 18 and 24 months. It is almost impossible for your toddler to make the jump from words to phrases unless he has expanded his vocabulary to include verbs.
At a young age, verbs typically include actions that your toddler experiences daily, like go, come, wash, eat, or words for states like want, like, see.
Verbs are essential for your toddler’s language development because it allows your toddler the ability to start using phrases, which is the first step to formulating small sentences. Every sentence needs a verb. And the choice of verb determines many of the grammatical forms in the sentence.
Research has shown that toddlers who use more verbs by 24 months of age have more advanced grammatical skills by the age of 3-years.
There is much variability when it comes to how many verbs toddlers should use, but they should say at least 40 verbs by the age of 24 months.
Should your toddler use fewer than 40 verbs by their second birthday, don’t panic. This delay should not be a cause for concern, as long as your toddler continues to learn several new verbs every month for the next six months.
However, toddlers who use no verbs at 24 to 30 months may be at risk for problems with language development. These toddlers will not be able to produce short phrases or sentences yet, as they can’t build phrases or sentences without verbs.
If they have any other risk factors for long-term language difficulty, it may be wise to seek advice from a speech and language therapist who can determine whether they need help to build their vocabulary.
When you are modelling good language use for your toddler, you need to make sure you emphasize the verbs. It can be easy to find yourself only labelling pictures (e.g. ball, bear, book). But instead of only labelling items and pictures, try adding a verb.
Here are 8 top tips to help your toddler learn verbs:
Think about things your toddler likes to do. By identifying toys, foods, and activities your toddler enjoys, you will be able to think of action words (verbs) associated with these things. For example:
Expand what your toddler says. If your toddler continues to use a single word and not use phrases or a short sentence, you can expand what he is saying by using his word(s) in a phrase and adding a verb. For example:
The rule of thumb is to always repeat what your toddler said and add at least one more word. In this way, you acknowledge and encourage your toddler, but also provide an example that is one small step ahead and that he can learn from.
Toddlers need to learn all kinds of words in order to talk. Verbs are especially important because they help toddlers communicate about events in the world by combining words into phrases and sentences. By using some of the tips above, you can assist your toddler in learning verbs and paving the way for his language to develop.
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