When children start unlocking new words you suddenly get to meet an whole new side of your little one you didn’t know. Whether they use them correctly or not (my one year old spontaneously says “turtle” at random moments throughout the day) early vocabulary allows us to see what’s going on in their little brains.
The few first words are often a mixture of family names, few random ones like “doggy” “baby” “banana” and the highly favoured “no!”. But after those first few, where do you go next? Word learning comes down to hearing it… seeing it… understanding it… and hearing it again! Let me break those down for you…
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If they don’t hear it, they won’t say it. Simple as that. We have to get involved and get talking in order for our children to hear as many words as possible. We of course don’t want to talk at them all day, but a friendly running commentary throughout the day where we label things we see, hold family conversations and chat away whilst doing daily tasks allows our children to gently and naturally hear words and sentences.
When we store words in our head, we often store a visual for the word with it to help us remember it. Having a visual of what the word refers to is a strong and effective way of learning and remembering words. Therefore not only naming e.g. animals, but also showing the animal will support your child to take the word into their vocabulary. If they continue to hear the word e.g. ball when they see the object (ball) then it strengthens the relationship between the object and the word. This in time should support them to see the object and then name it themselves.
Words are learnt and remembered best by the child understand them and the context around them. When a child learns a word e.g. elephant… they not only learn that word but they learn and store it using lots of other information e.g. what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, where it lives, what category is it etc. When we teach vocabulary we must try and include some of these elements to increase their understanding and support their learning, retention and retrieval.
They may know the word and maybe have even used it, but it continues to be important to use and model the words our children to hear so they have examples of the words being used in different contexts and sentences.
Now we know how… let’s think about what!
Here are 100 words that I think can be great to start with. They are a mixture of fun, functional, objects, actions and concepts (they aren’t in any particular order).
The easy answer is in play and in the day to day. Try out a few of these activities and incorporate some simple vocabulary. You can use the list above for ideas but make sure the words are relevant and functional to your child e.g. you might have a pet’s name they are motivated to learn.
Leave them in the comments! If you want to get a personal answer from our speech therapist, write to