7 Tips to Improve Your Baby and Toddler's Vocabulary

Last month I held a Facebook live listing down my tips on how to improve baby and toddler's vocabulary. Both kids were awake that time, needless to say it didn't turn out well. Haha! Ganun talaga pag live, but the show must go on.

I am no child development specialist. Neither am I an expert in language proficiency. I'm just a regular parent who'd like to share tips that worked for our family.

Our son, Vito, was an early talker. By the time he turned 2, he was already speaking 6-word sentences. He as a blabbermouth is an understatement.

Zoe, our 17-month-old toddler can speak at least 15 words, speak 2-word sentences, do sign language, understands conversations, and follow instructions. Pwede mo utusan magbalik sa cabinet, maglagay ng pinaghugasan sa lababo, magtapon ng basura, close doors, turn off fans, etc. And she sings, too.

These tips I am about to share is not fail-proof but it worked for us as a family and I hope these would help you as well.

1. Converse daily

Babies develop their senses dramatically on their first year, including their sense of hearing. Eventhough they are not yet able to speak, they can hear you. They learn language by hearing. So, converse with them from day one. Tell them how's your day, describe what is happening around you, point to objects and tell them what it is and what it does. Don't be afraid to use 'big' words with your baby. When you constantly communicate with them they learn that words have meanings, that a particular word refers to an object, a person, a feeling, or place. The more you talk to them, the larger their vocabulary is as they grow older.

Little V when he was a few weeks old

2. Don't baby talk

When conversing with your little one, minimize the baby talk. Speak to them like how you would with an adult. Repeat words you'd like to give emphasis.

Example: "Look, Zoe that's a flower. Flower."

Remember, your goal is for your child to associate a word to its meaning. By talking to them using baby talk, you are diverting from your goal.

V and Grandpa having fun. Don't forget to inject humor in your conversations!

3. Use one language to make a point

When Vito was younger, we were bilingual. My husband and I spoke to him in English while his nanny conversed in Tagalog. I admit that I did not stick to our plan and spoke in Tagalog frequently. However, we made sure that we refer to one language only when referring to something, well at least in the first year.

For example, if we see a cat, we point to it and refer it to a cat and not pusa. Same with the words: milk, pee, poop, food, sleep, dog, nappy, water, etc. We always used the English terms for these words instead of mixing it up with Tagalog. For the first year, he knew what a cat was and then later on we added the Tagalog equivalent when we felt that he was ready to learn more.

Convo when Vito was 0-1 yr old: "Anak, ayan na yung cat."

Convo when Vito was more than a year old: "Anak, ayan na yung cat. Cat. Pusa."

Taglish, I know but it was the best way to explain to him since he heard Tagalog more often.

The reason why it is important for us to stick to one language when making a point is to refrain confusion. Your baby might get confused if you use English, Tagalog, and Chinese when referring to a particular thing.

We had a neighbor previously who had a then-3-year-old who didn't talk and spoke only a few words. I found out that they spoke 3 languages that made it difficult for the child to associate a word to its meaning.

Don't get me wrong, it's okay to be bilingual at home but just make sure to use one language only during the first year when referring to a commonly used word like milk, food, mommy, etc. You can add more languages in the future when your baby has fully grasped the word and its association. My younger brother was fluent in 3 languages when he turned 3 years old, there's no need to rush.

4. Practice baby sign language

Both my kids were/are raised using baby sign language. Vito started late, he was already 14 months when we started but he got out of his morning diapers before he turned a year and a half. All because of sign language. Zoe, on the other hand, started at 7 months but she began signing back when she was 8 or 9 months already.

Some of their first words are the words we used to sign.

By using sign language, frustration and trantrums are lessened. It also helps your child to reason out and communicate even before they could speak. Studies also showed that it helps increases a child's intelligence quotient. Sino bang ayaw ng matalinong anak, di ba?

Do you need to learn sign language to teach your kids? Not necessarily. You can do research and check videos online on basic signs, but fo me it still depends on your family. We for example made our own signs, unique to our family. I had to because some signs were hard for my kids to copy, so we copied theirs instead.

5. Read to them everyday

Earlier I saw a question posted in a homeschool Facebook group asking where they should focus first (they have a toddler): learning the alphabet or reading alouds.

Read-aloud, dads and moms.

Reading aloud to your child helps strengthen your bond with them, help them imagine, builds connection with spoken and written word (point to the words as you read them), encourages them to listen attentively, and I learned that it helps them memorize. When Vito was 3 years old he can narrate a story word-by-word. Akala namin marunong na magbasa, saulo lang pala nya. Haha!

There are other benefits of reading to your kids which you can find in several articles online.

Tip: I'd suggest that you invest in board books instead of cloth types. They can use them from birth to gradeschool. Check out the list of books from Before Five in a Row (BFIAR). And look out for preloved copies at Booksale and Books For Less, specially their warehouse sales.

6. Lessen screen time.

Now if you use gadgets most of the time (like me because I use it for work), then this tip would be a challenge. With our first born, we were strict in his screen time when he was younger. We didn't had cable channels then, no internet, too. We only had DVDs played for him. His pedia then told us to limit his screen time. For 1-2 year olds, the pedia said that screen time should be a maximum of an hour a day only. For babies 0-12 months, if possible babies should not be exposed at all. And I would agree with the doctor because we saw/see the effects of screentime on our kids.

Now the pressing concern is when Z was born. We have cable and internet, her Kuya has tablet, and my husband and I use smartphones. V wants to watch TV but we had to limit because his sister would be joining him. They just can't be in two different rooms at a time. It was a challenge and still a challenge to limit her screen time.

When V is exposed to longer screen time, we noticed (we still notice it now that he's 6) changes in his behavior. He was restless, had temper, and was uncooperative.

BUT he also learned how to blend sounds using an app on a tablet.

So you see, there are pros and cons of screen time. It is up to us parents to discern what's best. What they can only watch and for how long. We actually use screentime as a reward.

Let us not use technology to babysit for us.

7. Be consistent

You can't be in this journey alone. Everyone in the family has to be onboard, including helpers and caregivers.

Make sure that you have communicated and instructed the members of your household about how to raise your kid. Teach them the sign language, encourage them to ask your child questions when they do read-alouds, remind them of screen time, help them get comfortable conversing with your child. Everyone should take an active role. As a proverb says, "It takes a village to raise a child."

What other tips can you recommend on helping develop a baby and toddler's vocabulary? Share on the comments! I'd love to hear your tips as I am a beautiful-mom-work-in-progress.


  1. Thanks for this informative tips momma.

  2. Super mahalaga to mamsh lalo na yung pagbabasa ng books at pagbibigkas ng diretsyong salita sa mga bata.


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