How to Get My Toddler to Combine Words: Part 2

How to Get My Toddler to Combine Words: Part 2 Your child has finally started to utter some first words and is verbally communicating more and more. This is an exciting time…

…although time has passed and you've noticed that he or she is stuck at the single word level.

This post will help you take your child to the next level.

How to Grow Your Toddler's Vocabulary

How to Grow Your Toddler's Vocabulary

Photo Credit: Clover_1

The first step to word combinations?

Grow your child’s vocabulary.

This is because as vocabulary grows so does sentence length.

As Vocab grows so does sentence length

As Vocab grows so does sentence length

Work on growing your child’s vocabulary BUT don’t just focus on adding nouns to your child’s vocabulary (aka person, place or things). Stress tangible action words, observable describing words and salient location words like the following:

Actions– run, walk, sit, sleep, eat, smell, hug, kiss, help, go, stop, etc.

Descriptions – big, small, hot, cold, stinky, fast, slow, etc.

Locations – up, down, on, off, etc.

Grow Your Toddler's Vocabulary

Grow Your Toddler's Vocabulary

If you focus on adding a variety of words to your child’s repertoire, it will be much easier for him or her to form combinations.

Here are some ways to grow your toddler’s vocabulary:

  • Go on field trips. Expose your child to new situations and new experiences. With each novel experience your child has the opportunity to learn new vocabulary. Field trips may be a trip to a lake, the beach, the zoo or even the library, park, pet or grocery store.

  • Take pictures while on these field trips. After you take the picture, show them to your child and talk about them. Go beyond naming names (e.g. This is a bear - maybe you saw a bear?!). Explain what someone or something is doing (e.g. The bear is eating). Describe what something or someone looks, feels, or smells (e.g. The bear is big. The bear is furry).

  • Read to them. Studies show children learn new words when books are read aloud to them. Vocabulary is learned incidentally and because adults are more likely to explain words and concepts during a shared reading activity. My latest book, Learning to Read is a Ball is an interactive picture book that includes an extensive parent guide to assist in building your child’s oral language via shared reading. If you read it, please leave a review and let me know what you think.

  • Display riveting artwork. I can’t take credit for this idea. I’m taking it from Nancy Newman the author of, Raising Passionate Readers. In her book, she explains how young children spend countless hours at home and how it’s “…important to pay attention to the interior decoration of your child’s brain, heart, and soul by talking with him.” She suggests adding some “snap and sizzle” to verbal exchanges by “hanging interesting pictures, postcards, maps, or photographs on walls and on the refrigerator and chatting about them.” This is such an easy way to stimulate your child’s occipital lobe and visual processing system. Hang these conversational art pieces in places that your toddler will notice, perhaps by the changing table, on a coffee table, bathroom mirror, nightstand, or refrigerator. Take it a step further by having your toddler help you sort through all the mail too. We receive cards, brochures, magazines and other colorful junk mail that my little one loves to (rip) open and “read”. Keep a few of these colorful pieces and display until it’s time to replace them. If you’re looking for some ideas and appreciate realistic art with touches of whimsy and wonder, I highly recommend viewing Nancy Tillman’s poster collections.

These authentic, in the moment vocabulary building experiences will assist in developing “wide, flexible and useful general vocabulary.” (Blachowicz, C.L.Z. n.d.).

This is the type of vocabulary a child needs to communicate effectively and efficiently.

Remember - don’t just target nouns focus on adjectives, verbs, and locations too.

Once you have tried these strategies, please let me know how it's going. Have you had any success growing your toddler's vocabulary? Leave a comment below. I would love for the comment section to act as a community for readers to exchange thoughts and ideas.

Stay tuned for much more to come in this series.

Thank you!


Blachowicz, C.L.Z. (n.d.). Best Practices in Vocabulary Instruction. Retrieved April 28, 2015 from

Newman, N. (2014). Raising Passionate Readers: 5 Easy Steps to Success in School and Life. New York: Tribeca View Press.