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Your Toddler's Development: Building Vocabulary

Word Power

To build your child's vocabulary and encourage more abstract thinking, make a point of talking about the specific qualities of particular objects. Rather than just naming the objects as you did when she was one, use more adjectives: a "red sweater," a "tall tower," a "slow turtle." Talk about the shapes of things. An orange is round, but so is a circle, a ball, a teething ring, the mouth of a play tunnel, and so on. Talking about these qualities helps your child make these connections. Also talk about the relationships between objects.

This helps your child to understand:


Board books with brightly colored pictures provide terrific learning tools for vocabulary building.

  • Spatial relationships (over, under, in front, behind, in, out)
  • Size relationships (bigger, smaller, taller, shorter, skinnier, fatter)
  • Temporal relationships (before, after, first, second, third, last)

By appealing to your two-year-old's natural inclination to expand her vocabulary and increase her understanding, you can stimulate her to analyze what she senses, and to make comparisons and connections.

Above all, don't make language building a chore. Have fun with language and help your child have fun with it, too. Be ridiculous. Whether you're reading a story, singing a song, or pointing out the sights on a walk, make silly mistakes to see how your child reacts. Point to a picture of a cow and say, "Look, a duck!" Your toddler will think you're delightfully silly and have lots of fun correcting you.

When you're reading a favorite book, singing a familiar song, or reciting a nursery rhyme, leave some of the words out, and then pause for your child to finish the sentence. If your child has heard it enough before, she can probably fill in the blanks perfectly.

If you're doing this while reading a book and she tries to fill in a blank, comes close, but doesn't repeat the words exactly, that's even better. That shows that she is trying to make sense of the words she's hearing and the pictures she's seeing. So don't bother correcting this kind of daring "mistake"—even if your child's word seems totally off base to you. Instead, applaud your child's courage.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Preschooler and Toddler, Too © 1997 by Keith M. Boyd, M.D., and Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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