How Many Words Should a Toddler Know by Two?

At the age of two, a toddler’s language will develop very quickly. Childhood Development expert, Anastasia Moloney, talks about how many words they will have in their vocabulary.

toddler reading a book with mom

Watching your child as they discover new words is an exciting milestone. While toddlers might only use a few words at a time, by 18 months they understand many more. Naturally you may start to wonder if your child’s language development is on track.

What’s important to remember is that children develop differently and at different times so try not to compare. However, if your child is not babbling often, using any words or isn’t listening to, or hearing you, then it’s best to address your concerns as soon as possible with your pediatrician. 

The earlier you can detect potential issues, the more effective intervention can be so it’s important to monitor your child’s speech development. To be able to monitor it effectively, knowing what your child should be doing and saying by the age of two will assist you.

In this article I will discuss the following toddler language development topics:

  1. How many words a child should know by 2
  2. Common words for a 2 year-old
  3. How to encourage language development

What is expected by age 2?

By the age of two a child should:

  • know about 50 words
  • begin combining two words together, such as “more milk”, “mama ball”, “daddy up”, etc.
  • follow simple directions
  • Attempt to imitate new words

You and your child’s primary caregivers should be able to understand about half of what your child is saying.

Common Words to Listen for

A child’s vocabulary will vary between cultures and families as they tend to learn the words they hear in their environment. At first, these words might include the names of people, places and objects like food or toys. The most common words for a two year-old include:

  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • No
  • Bye bye
  • Car
  • Thank you
  • More
  • Please
  • Bath
  • Book
  • All gone
  • Hello
  • Yes
  • Nose
  • Milk
  • Eye
  • Hot
  • Shoe

How to encourage language development?

As a parent or caregiver, it’s helpful to know the language milestones for two year-olds so that you can monitor your child’s development. You can use the common words listed above as a benchmark for your child. Just keep in mind that each child develops at their own rate. It’s common at this age for children to have an explosion of language and you’ll suddenly notice their vocabulary expand very quickly. In the meantime, encourage your child to communicate, try out new words and sounds and have fun while doing so.

Here are 7 ways to encourage language development.

  1. Model words: Introduce your child to new words by talking about what you’re doing or what you see when you’re together. 
  2. Sing songs or recite rhymes: Kids love to sing. The repetition and rhythm of songs and rhymes helps them to hear familiar words over and over again.
  3. Read, read, read!: Books are a great way to match words with pictures which will help your child to understand. Ask your child simple questions about the story and try to relate the books to things your child might see in their environment. Children tend to love reading the same books over and over again so choose books that you enjoy reading too! 
  4. Play with different sounds: Try to encourage your child to imitate the sounds or words that you make. For example, making animal sounds is a fun way to teach your child about the sounds we make when when speak. 
  5. Mirror play: Toddlers love seeing themselves in the mirror so use this to your advantage. Sit in front of a mirror with your child and mouth sounds together so they can watch their mouths move in the reflection. 
  6. Give your child a chance to answer or imitate. Allowing your child to answer questions for themselves requires some patience as they won’t always be quick to respond. But doing this will help them to build their confidence, independence and vocabulary. 
  7. When playing, use basic, repetitive language and then expand. For example, if you are rolling a ball. First say ‘ball’, when rolling it back and forth, then you can say ‘mama ball’, ‘your ball’, then you can expand to include words such as ‘big’, ‘bounce’, ‘blue’, etc until you’ve introduced them to 10 new words each time.  

See more on ways to encourage language development in young children. 

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