5 Easy Ways To Teach Your Toddler New Words

Teaching your toddler vocabulary, communication and other skills can seem intimidating. All it takes is consistency and lots of praise. Children’s brains are wired to learn.

A lot of people have remarked to me that Lyla says a lot of words for being 18 months. She will tell us “yes” and “no” and can repeat back most words we ask her to.

I think at 18 months it is expected that children know 20 words. Whether Lyla is doing better than average is up to opinion. Yet, I do know we are intentional in teaching her vocabulary.

It’s not something we sit down and do every day rather we try to make it a part of our interactions with her.

Teaching your toddler vocabulary, communication and other skills can seem intimidating. All it takes is consistency and lots of praise.  #learning #ideas #toddler

I definitely did not come up with these ideas on teaching your toddler on my own. But, I took a couple of child development classes in university. I have picked up things from Brittney Vasseur on YouTube.

Other than that I try to stay informed on what research has shown to be helpful in teaching toddlers.

Teaching your toddler Sign Language

Long before Lyla could talk I tried to teach her sign language. For us, this meant repeatedly showing her the “milk” sign when I remembered.

milk sign

When she started eating I taught her “more” and “all done”. After eating I would sign and ask if she was “all done”. Eventually, she would communicate that to me or my husband on her own.

Those are the only three signs we taught her.

more sign

All done sign


To be clear it took a lot of repetition before she started signing back to us.

Don’t get discouraged if your child isn’t signing back yet. Lyla didn’t get the concept until 10 months and up.

Reading the same books

Repetition is critical for learning! We have three board books we go through almost every day now that Lyla is familiar with them.

One is Dr. Seuss’s 100 First Words. The other two are a Let’s Learn ABCs book and a Let’s Learn 123s book.

Teaching your toddler words
Teaching your toddler abc's and 123's

At first, I would sit down with Lyla and go over the same page each day in the Dr. Seuss Book. Now that she is a bit older she will ask to read the book, turn the pages and point at words for me to read.

In fact, the other day unprompted she pointed out and said “apple, cheese, pear” to my husband. A lot of the time I’ve wondered if she is actually understanding what I’m reading. But this proved to me children hear and comprehend a lot more than we give them credit for.

Describing her environment

The next thing, I’m intentional to do with Lyla is to describe her environment. This includes explaining who is in the room with us and describing things by their colour, shape or texture.

At first, it may seem weird to be constantly narrating your environment. But it is so helpful in teaching your toddler vocabulary.

The reason I try to focus on vocabulary is because success in kindergarten is influenced by the child’s ability to understand what the teacher is saying. If a child has a large vocabulary they will have an easier time learning.

In addition, before we go somewhere, I will tell Lyla what we are doing or who we are going to see.

Limit Screen Time

“Although parents may believe that watching television exposes children to sufficient language, cognitive psychology research has shown that children (and adults) do not learn as well from television as they do from direct interaction” This is a quote from the article linked above, which is based on a study by Paul L. Morgan out of Penn State University.

I would recommend checking out the article for more information. It’s very short and provides some great tips for teaching children.

This is exactly why Lyla does not watch TV aside from when it’s on in the background or if I’m having a shower. Other than that she prefers playing with her toys over sitting in front of a screen.

Praise Effort when teaching your toddler

The final thing I try to do with Lyla is to use positive reinforcement. I praise her for trying new words, for listening well and any other behaviour I want her to develop.

Praise is instrumental in helping a child feel safe and like they can continue to try.

“Researchers Hart and Risley demonstrated that parents who invited their children’s expressions of speech positively saw them develop larger vocabularies, an outcome that the authors attribute to the confidence the children gained to speak frequently and express their feelings and desires.” source

Speak often to your toddler

If you have one takeaway from this post I hope that it is to speak more often to your child. I don’t put pressure on myself to achieve certain tasks with Lyla each day. Yet, I do keep her books out with her toys and make an effort to read with her even when I don’t want to.

Remember children are sponges and they hear a lot more than they verbalize. If you think your child is having troubles learning bring it up with your doctor. Early intervention is the best solution.

What ways are you intentional in teaching your children?

Do you have any learning tips for me as Lyla gets older to incorporate?

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9 Replies to “5 Easy Ways To Teach Your Toddler New Words”

  1. I always wanted to do this with my first and just never did. Will definitely be trying this with my second. I love this post because you break it down so that it is easy for both parent and child. Thanks.

  2. I never did this with my first but have been implementing sign with our youngest. I love how simple yet effective these recommendations are. Thank you.

    1. It’s so neat once they start signing back! I’m glad you found them simple and effective! (:

  3. We taught our little one sign language as a baby too! Was so useful especially since she has always been very strong willed!

    1. Yes! It can be frustrating when they don’t know how to communicate what they want. I love how signing helps.

  4. These are excellent tips to help your toddler learn more words. My boy is almost two next week and he is finally starting to say full sentences! Reading and talking about the subjects in the book has definitely helped him with vocabulary!

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