Teaching Verbs to Your Little One: The Power of Action Words

Speech Sisters
January 31, 2024

When it comes to language development in young children, it is essential to introduce them to a wide range of vocabulary. While nouns are often the first words they learn, introducing verbs, or action words, at an early age is equally important.

Do you want your child to start combining words together and talking in short phrases and sentences? If so, you may want to focus on exposing your child to more VERBS (aka action words).

Why Are Verbs Important for Language Development?

Be honest with us, do you know what we want you to do after reading the sentence below?

Blocks bin ball baby.

  • Most likely, you have no idea what we were telling you to do from the example above. That is because the above example only contains NOUNS (remember nouns are a person, place or thing)! You cannot make a real sentence unless you use other word types too (like verbs, pronouns, prepositions, adjectives, and more)!
  • As parents, we often get stuck in a noun rut! Hey, look there's a…"ball", "airplane", "mama", "house", "light", "fan"... and the noun list goes on and on.
  • Now let's add more word types into the sentence example above, and we bet you will now know exactly what we want you to do!

THROW the blocks, ball, and baby IN the WHITE bin.

  • It's not that nouns are "bad", but if you only label nouns during the day (like "bird", "car", "ball", "daddy", "apple"), then your child won't understand as much language, and their language skills will become more limited.

Verbs are the building blocks of sentences and enable children to express actions, feelings, and states. Research suggests that children who use more verbs at the age of two exhibit more advanced grammatical skills six months later.

Verbs not only help children express actions and desires but also play a crucial role in forming sentences and building grammatical skills. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of teaching verbs to young children and provide practical tips to help you incorporate action words into your child's language learning journey.

Every sentence requires a verb, and the choice of verb influences the grammatical structure of the sentence. By introducing a variety of verbs, parents can help their children develop a broader vocabulary and enhance their language skills.

When Should Children Start Using Verbs?

The timeline for when children start using verbs can vary. Typically, children should begin using at least a few verbs by the age of two. By 24 months, many children can already express around 40 different verbs.

However, it is important to note that each child develops at their own pace. While a limited number of verbs at 24 months may not be a cause for concern, it is crucial to ensure a steady progression in verb acquisition over the following months.

How to Help Your Child Learn New Verbs:

Create a Verb List:

Keep track of the verbs your child understands and says.

This will help you identify which verbs to focus on and track their progress in learning new verbs!

Identify Interests and Activities:

Think about your child's favorite toys, foods, and activities. By associating action words (verbs) with these interests, you can facilitate their understanding and usage.

For example, during bath time, emphasize words like: "pour," "wash," or "splash." If your child enjoys playing with cars, use verbs such as "push," "crash," or "go" while engaging in car play.

Use Actions to Reinforce Verbs:

Actions speak louder than words! Whenever possible, demonstrate the action associated with a verb while saying it in a short sentence.

For instance, if you want to teach the verb "push," physically push a toy car and say, "I'm pushing the car." This visual reinforcement enhances understanding and memory retention.

Repetition is Key:

Children need to hear new words multiple times before they can effectively incorporate them into their vocabulary. Incorporate new verbs into your daily interactions with your child repeatedly.

Use the verb during specific activities, then reintroduce it during different contexts and situations. This provides ample opportunities for your child to hear and understand the word in various settings.

This research study suggests that children who used more verbs at 24 months had more advanced grammatical skills when measured six months later. WHY?...

Verbs are essential for many word combinations and for making up sentences. Really, you can't make a sentence without a verb.

How many verbs should my child be using at 24 months?

Verb usage for toddlers can be extremely variable. (Remember the number of words a toddler uses is a RANGE. We call this 'The Expected Range'. Please read our blog called How Many Words Should My Child Have for more details.

But this study found that it is common for a 24-month-old toddler to use around 40 verbs. However, if a child is using less than 10 verbs at 24 months old, it is not a huge concern as long as the toddler continues to add several new verbs to their vocabulary index each month thereafter.

  • Specifically, this study states that your toddler should be adding about 8 new verbs each month following the 24-month mark.
  • This study also tells us that at 21 months, girls tend to have more verbs than boys.
  • But boys typically “catch up” by 30 months!

Concerned that your toddler isn't using as many verbs as they should at this point? We’ve got you! We teach you exactly how to get your child using a variety of VERBS in our online course Time to Talk Toddler Course!

Parents hold the key to their child’s communication development!

Teaching your child verbs at an early age is crucial for their language development. By introducing action words, you can help your child form sentences, expand their vocabulary, and enhance their grammatical skills.

Remember to keep a list of verbs, identify your child's interests, demonstrate actions, and provide ample repetition. With these strategies, you can create an engaging and effective learning environment that fosters your child's language growth.

Next Steps:

To learn simple and effective strategies to help get your little one talking, check out our Talk on Track (newborn-14 months) and Time to Talk: Toddler Course (15-36 months). We’d love to equip you to experience the joy of your little one talking to you! If you've ever asked the question, "does my child need speech therapy?" you can check out our free 45-min webinar here!

If your child is facing challenges with speech articulation, our Tiny Articulators course offers a proactive solution to help them speak more clearly and consistently. Don't wait, take action now and empower your child with the gift of confident speech!

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