How much of what you say can your child understand?

Child vocabulary

Every child advances at a different rate, but the toddler and preschool years are the time of tremendous advances in vocabulary.

During the first year your child can usually understand (her reflective vocabulary) more than she can say (her productive vocabulary), so you can help her learn by looking at what she is pointing at and asking, “Do you want the Teddy Bear?”

Realize that her brain does not yet operate “up to speed,” so you should ask only simple, direct questions, and allow time for an answer. Always state things positively, as she may not process, “Don’t Run!” as easily as, “Walk slowly.”

Continue to build your child’s vocabulary by narrating what you do throughout the day, and especially during walks, point out objects, sizes, colors, etc.

Sometime between 18 months and 2 years, she may begin to form two- to four-word sentences. As your baby makes mental, emotional, and behavioral leaps, she’ll increasingly be able to use words to describe what she sees, hears, feels, thinks, and wants.

Two-year-olds can typically speak between 200 and 250 words. By age 3 they are able to put three and four words together into sentences, but still have trouble with describing feelings, which can compound into frustration.

At 24 months they are putting two-word sentences together like, “Daddy come?” and learning to use pronouns like I, me, and you. At this age they will be more interested in what they want than what you have to say, but as the year progresses, they become better listeners. By 33 months they should start to use prepositions like over and under, but they are very literal, so be careful about making jokes that might be misunderstood (“If you don’t stop drinking juice, you’re going to explode!”).

For more insights into your child’s mind, click here to see your options.

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