Your Baby’s Growing Vocabulary: How to Help Her Learn More Words

Your Baby’s Growing Vocabulary: How to Help Her Learn More Words

Is your baby beginning to say the names of common objects or even showing that she can use words in the correct context? The answer is very likely, “Yes!” Because your baby is paying more attention to spoken language, she is building her Receptive Language skills and developing a deeper understanding of the words she hears you say often (her Vocabulary Knowledge). For example, at first she won’t know that “night-night” means bed time until she goes through her nightly routine a number of times: putting on her jammies, brushing her teeth, and quietly reading a bedtime story with you. As she gets older, though, she’ll understand the meaning of “night-night” without the routine, and she may even use it in doll play. By the time they are one years old, babies possess a receptive vocabulary of approximately 50 words.These words are often the most common words she hears and relates to on a daily basis.

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The next time you play together, test your baby’s Receptive Language and Vocabulary Knowledge skills by asking her if she wants to play with a favorite toy that is located nearby and in plain sight.2 For example, say, “Do you want to play ball?” Observe if she responds by turning to look at the toy or even directly reaching for it. If she is already crawling or walking by this time, she may even go over to the ball when asked to play.

You will also notice that this is the age when your baby will begin to respond to your simple, one-step verbal directions, including “Come to Mommy,” or “Roll the ball.” She may also pause midway through an action when she hears you say “No” because she now understands its meaning and knows she should stop what she’s doing. When she reaches this developmental milestone, it is a true testament to your baby’s receptive communication skills and her understanding of words and their meaning.

By the time your baby reaches 2 years, her spoken vocabulary will soar to over 200 words.1,3Continue to help her build her vocabulary and speech skills by talking clearly to her about things as you go through the day. Also be sure to use gestures and pictures to build her understanding of words and ask her questions to give her a chance to practice back and forth conversations.

Play Tips:

Do you want to know how you can support your baby’s development of these Receptive Language and Vocabulary Knowledge skills at this age? It’s easy! Read on for some simple tips to incorporate into your daily play time together.

  1. Talk with your baby face-to-face as much as possible. Talk in clear adult language and try to avoid using “baby talk” at this age. Name your baby’s actions and any objects she comes across. Let her see you speak so that she may learn how to use facial expressions.
  2. Introduce a few new words every day. While it’s good to repeat familiar and common words, you also want to introduce new words to build her vocabulary. Use descriptive words for everything your baby sees and does.
  3. Give simple, structured choices to encourage conversation. When you give your baby the chance to make decisions for herself, she’ll be more interested in listening and participating in the conversation. The next time you and your baby play together, give her some easy options to choose between, such as “Do you want to play with your doll or car?”
  4. Ask your baby to bring you common objects and toys. Ask her to get a ball, doll, or any favorite object she knows and can identify. Be sure to keep your instructions short and simple. If she doesn’t understand what you are asking, model how to follow the instructions and pick up the item for her. At the same time, say the name of the object several times to boost her understanding of the word and the instructions given. As she improves on following this simple request, try giving her other types of simple instructions.

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Developmental Milestones:

Has your baby achieved the following Receptive Language and Vocabulary Knowledge developmental milestones yet? If yes, check off all the skill(s) she has already mastered to date using Playful Bee’s developmental milestones tracker. It’s absolutely FREE and easy to use, just click HERE!

  • Pays more attention to spoken communication.
  • Understands “no.”
  • Responds to simple 1-step verbal directions with gestures (e.g. “give me a kiss,” “sit down”).


1Public Broadcasting Service. Child Development Tracker: Language. PBS Parents.Retrieved December 16, 2013, from

2Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association (2006). Ohio’s Infant Toddler Guidelines.

3Gavin, Mary L. (2011). Communication and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old. KidsHealth. Retrieved December 16, 2013, from


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