There are many words that should make it into your 3-year-old toddler's vocabulary list. However, you need to step in and introduce them to him. See to it that your toddler learns new words every few days and his vocabulary will soon expand!
Every parent longs for the moment when their toddler's coos turn into words. You should have fun with this phase of your toddler's development by playing with him and intelligently incorporating words into play. While it’s true that a toddler may not be able to use many of words he learns even when he’s 2 or 3 years old, he’s still able to attach meanings to them and remember them as he grows up. Thus, it becomes important to focus on your 3-year old’s vocabulary with patience and encouragement.
Vocabulary Words for Toddlers: Stages of Learning
The following are the stages of learning across different ages:
Easy lip sounds such as /p, /b, and /m can be noticed in toddlers as early as 6 months. This is generally accompanied with a little babbling. /d and /n sounds begin to be noticed by 12 to 15 months. These sounds become much more pronounced as a toddler reaches 2 years of age.
How much should a 3-year-old be talking? In terms of speech milestones for 3-year-olds, vocabulary development reaches its peak at this age. Toddlers begin to use complex sounds like /f ('fish'), /g ('go'), /k ('cake') and /w. Sounds like /ch ('chair'), /j ('juice'), /l ('loo'), /s ('see'), /z ('zoo'), /sh ('shoe'), and /y ('yes') are mastered by your child between the ages of 4 and 5 years. Some children might be a little late at grasping sounds and words, and may still struggle slightly till the 6 to 7-year range.
The average vocabulary of a 3-year-old can contain as many as 450 words, even more. However, much depends on how you promote talking and reading in front of them. Always make sure you encourage your little one to listen to new words. Try to use new words every now and then when you speak to people at home too.
How to Promote Vocabulary Development in Toddlers:
You can help to promote vocabulary development in toddlers by:
Reading to your toddler daily can exponentially enhance his vocabulary list.
You can ask him to name pictures in books and name objects you/he point at. Vocabulary can also be expanded by having him point to pictures as you name them in the books.
Try to play games. If he’s able to call out a word correctly, reward him with a little something.
Problems Grasping Words and Sounds:
Some toddlers might be a little slow in learning new words and sounds. If you think that your child too is having difficulties learning, you can consult a speech therapist who can help increase his vocabulary. However, there’s no need to worry before a diagnosis is made. Every child takes his or her own time to learn.
‘Mom’, ‘Dad’, ‘Sleep’, ‘Drink’, ‘Eat’ and ‘Toilet’ are some of the most common words your 3-year-old should know.
Remember that without your constant involvement, your toddler will not be able grasp words, concepts and meanings easily. There’s also no easy way to help him learn new words other than to play around with them with your spouse, in front of your toddler.
Tips for Language Development of a Toddler
There are several fun and interactive ways by which you can help to improve your 3-year-old toddler’s language development, such as:
Constantly Chatting with Your Child - By engaging your child in conversation continuously and providing a narration of the endeavors of the day, the child picks up several words and a develops an understanding of every activity he does and goes through. You can use sentences such as, “Let’s get ready to go to the park. We can have a long walk and see your friends.”, to describe your actions and contribute to the vocabulary of the 3-year-old.
Never Too Early to Start Reading - Picture and board books can help you engage your child in reading from quite an early age. Develop a daily reading habit which encourages your child’s participation, and go back to reading the same books over and over again to ingrain the information in the child’s mind. Spending ample reading time with parents is also a predictor of future reading success.
Storytelling - Not only does this boost your child’s imagination from an early age, it also helps him identify various characters, themes, and other facets of a story. Make sure to keep the stories easy to understand, include common vocabulary words, keep it full of life, and not too scary for the child’s liking.
Listen to Music Together - Music and movement are fun for young children. By listening to lively songs and nursery rhymes, they slowly learn new words and also, language rhythm.
Encourage and Feed Their Interest - If your child exhibits interest in any particular topic or activity, spend more time talking or reading about it. Interact with your toddler - ask them questions, give them information on the topic, and repeat keywords. For example, if your child shows interest in a picture of an animal in her storybook, show her more pictures, and cultivate an interest in learning altogether.
All Praise for Efforts - Do not criticize your child’s mistakes during his babbles. Instead, you can repeat his sentences back to him with the right pronunciation and usage of words. Encourage his efforts by giving him plenty of praise.
Offer Choices and Repeat Words - If your child asks you for strawberry milk, you can ask him, “I have strawberry milk. Do you want strawberry milk or chocolate milk? Strawberry milk? I’ll give you the milk.” This introduces him to the fact that there are different options, and he can learn a new word too!
Fun Field Trips - You can take your child out on a visit to the market, the zoo, the park, and other places where he will see a variety of people and things. While exposing him to new experiences, it also helps him learn new aspects that he can ask about and consequently, add to the ever-growing vocabulary of the 3-year-old.
Keep the Television and Computer Use to a Bare Minimum - It is recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics that children below the age of two should avoid television completely, while those older than two years can watch up to 2 hours of quality programs only. Television shows do not encourage interaction, neither do they respond to children. The same goes for computer games, which may be slightly more interactive, but not very responsive.
Patience is Key - Your child will not develop an extensive vocabulary overnight, neither will he pick up everything you try to converse with him about. Take it slow and wait for the results to shape up in due time.
When to Worry
When the communication of a 3-year-old seems to be impaired, it could point to a speech or language disorder. These are actually two different aspects when looked into in detail. In the medical community, speech refers to sounds of the spoken language; using the muscles involved in speech in a precise way. Language, however, means the whole system of words and symbols used to communicate meaning. Here, we will be discussing what symptoms are indicative of language disorder and certain measures you can take to help your 3-year-old. Language disorders refer to when a child faces difficulty either with understanding what’s being communicated to him (receptive languages issues), or sharing his own thoughts and ideas (expressive language issues). These issues can be a result of physical or developmental problems such as a hearing impairment, brain injury, autism, learning disability, and so on. It would bode well if such issues are detected before your child turns three - the earlier, the better. If your child exhibits the following signs, he could be suffering from a language disorder:
No babbling from the age of 4 to 7 months.
Begins making sounds only by 7 to 12 months.
Does not gesture by 7 to 12 months.
Doesn’t understand what others say from 7 months to 2 years.
Says very few words by 12 to 18 months.
Doesn’t string words and form sentences from 1.5 to 2 years.
Has a vocabulary of less than 50 words by 2 years of age.
Has problems interacting with other children by the age of 2 to 3 years.
Faces trouble with early reading and writing skills from the age of 2.5 to 3 years.
Not being to answer basic “wh” questions by age 3.
The common treatment for a language disorder is language therapy, and psychological therapy too, if needed. While at that, you can follow certain measures at home to aid your child, such as:
Speaking slowly, keeping it clear and concise while talking or asking your child something.
Maintaining patience while your child frames a response or answer to your question.
Having the child make the effort to put your instructions in their own words after giving them an explanation or a command.
Reduce the anxiety of the child by keeping the environment relaxed.
As mentioned earlier, patience is still the key to help your child, while not getting frustrated yourself.
Watch: How To Use Sensory Play for Language Speech Therapy Tips
The easiest sounds and letters for your little one to pick up are ‘B’, ‘K’, ‘D’, ‘G’, ‘N’, ‘P’.
Encourage your child constantly by praising every effort they make.
Parents can perform simple language exercises at home with simple items such as Jello, noodles, and shaving cream. You can hide little plastic letters in them and have the child ‘SLURP’ or ‘SCOOP’ them out, having them enunciate every letter they find or action they do.
Children feel braver to attempt these tasks when parents participate and make it a fun thing to do together.
Interesting Tidbit: Studies Show Girls Have a Larger Vocabulary Than Boys
In a study published in the Journal of Child Language, it was revealed that girl children exhibited an 8% larger vocabulary than boys. However, parents say that parenting and personality factors played a bigger role. Conducted in New Zealand among more than 6000 toddlers, it was discovered that 87% of the children could structure sentences in at least one language, which is a crucial marker of language development. Parents to Autumn Vis and Millar Johnson credited the same to the conversation, reading, singing, and old-school games like ‘I Spy’. They claim that talking to children helps them to learn and that the terms and words used were clear and correct, as opposed to talking to them in a baby-like way. This encourages kids to pick up bigger words right from a young age.
How many words can your child speak? Feel free to share any tips or views you may have on promoting vocabulary.