Enriching Your Child's Vocabulary
Most children begin to say words at around the age of 12 months. By 18 months, most children have a vocabulary of about 50 words. Many parents would like to know how to help their child acquire and use more words. What is essential, is to make a word meaningful, relevant and salient to your toddler.
So how do we accomplish this? We know that children need consistency. In other words, use the same word for the same object, action or event. If you always use 'cat' to label your pet, without switching to 'kitty', 'pussycat' or 'meow', your child will learn the word 'cat' more readily. If your baby is eating, use the word "eat", rather than switch it with different verbs, such as "chew", for example.
In addition, we need to use lots of expression in our voice. Let's say your toddler is reaching up, as if to say, "Pick me up." If you say "up" with your vocal inflection going up, that will help your child learn the word. Try to use the word a few times, first alone and then paired with another word, as in "(your child's name here) up", with that same rising inflection. Or you could say "Pick baby up", with (you guessed it), that same rising inflection.
You might notice in the previous paragraph that there is a lot of repetition of the word "up", which leads me to one of the most important things your child needs to acquire words, and that is, lots of repetition. When your toddler hears a word frequently and it is used in conjunction with the object, action or event, it is more likely that your child will learn the word and learn how to use it.
Another way to increase your child's use of single words is to use gestures whenever it is appropriate. Pointing up as you say "up", pointing to your stomach as you say "hungry", flapping your arms as you say "fly", helps your toddler learn and acquire new words.
Last, but definitely NOT least, talk to your toddler as much as you can and whenever you can. (Not only will your child's vocabulary bloom, so will your relationship.) Don't be surprised if your hear new words every week!