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From Baby to Big Kid

An e-newsletter that showcases how children learn and grow each month from birth to 3 years. From Baby to Big Kid translates the science of early childhood and offers strategies parents can tailor to their unique family situation and to the needs of their child.
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School Readiness

0-12 Months12-2424-36


Language Development - 24 to 36 Months

Language development soars at this age, as children are using words to express their thoughts and feelings.  Language and literacy skills continue to build on each other in a child’s third year.  In fact, the size of a child's vocabulary at age 3 is related to later reading skills.

Click on the links below to learn about ways you can encourage your 2-year-old’s language skills:

Grow your toddler’s vocabulary
Language skills grow rapidly in the third year.  A typical 2-year-old knows 20-200 words.  A typical 3-year-old knows about 1,000 words. 

Also very exciting is that between ages 2 and 3, most children have developed the language and grammar skills to have a real conversation with you.  Your child will be able to put words together into 2- and 3-word sentences:  More apple, You play, Car mine. By the time your child is 3, she will be able to put together three to four words to convey a thought such as, I got new shoes.  She is probably also beginning to ask her first questions, usually ones beginning with What or Where such as, What dat?

Most toddlers this age are also able to understand two-part commands, such as Go get your rain coat and put it on; or, Go to the toy shelf and get your truck.  Whether they will or not is another question…

What You Can Do:

  • Talk together.  Talking with your toddler helps her expand her vocabulary and learn more complex sentence structures.  Talking together also develops her literacy skills as she is more comfortable and confident with language.  Talk as you: ride in the car, do errands together, make a meal, take a walk.  Research shows that talking with children during everyday routines increases their vocabularies.

  • Ask open-ended questions that don’t have a yes/no answer.  This helps your child develop her own ideas and opinions.  If you see some ants in a line, you might say, “What tiny little ants!  Where do you think they are going?”

  • Notice the number, size, shape and color of the things around you.  If you are at the supermarket, you can talk about the colors of different fruits, count out the apples as you put them in a bag, and notice that there are big fruits (like pineapple) and little fruits (like grapes).

  • Make up rhymes, recite child-friendly poems, and sing songs with your child.  This helps her develop phonemic awareness - the ability to hear and identify the different sounds that make up spoken words.

Help your toddler develop her language and pronunciation skills
Toddlers’ pronunciation is still not perfect.  Your child may not say words clearly, so her speech may sound a little mumbled and may be hard to understand.  Your child may have a slight lisp or pronounce some letters incorrectly, substituting an easier letter to pronounce.  For example, she may say tat for cat, wabbit for rabbit, or piyo for pillow.

Toddlers may also skip letters, especially when saying words with blended sounds like stop, which may be pronounced sop or top.  You can help others understand what your child is saying and reduce his frustration by repeating what you know she is trying to say. (You want Grandma to stop reading and play with you!).

What You Can Do:

  • Help your child build and grow her sentences.  If she says, Mommy go?  You can say, Yes, Mommy is going to work now.

  • Play the telephone game.  Use a toy phone (or even a block that you pretend is a phone) to “call” your child.  You can talk about things that happened that day (What did you have for lunch?) or what will happen later on (Do you want a regular bath or a bubble bath tonight?)

    Empower your child (and reduce No’s in the process)
    You may hear your now-very-independent toddler say No! over and over (and over). This is a great example of how one area of development—language—influences another area—social-emotional development.  Saying No! becomes an important way for toddlers to express their feelings and show you how independent they are. 

    Older toddlers have their own clear personalities, preferences, and desires.  They also know that they are individuals—separate from you—who are skilled and capable (Let me do it!).  They want choices and some control over their lives.  The use of no is one quick way to let you know they are growing up. 

    What You Can Do:

    • Offer toddlers choices: Would you like an apple or string cheese for snack?

    • Ask them to help out with “big kid” tasks: Please put your socks in the sock drawer.

    • Encourage them to do things themselves:Here’s your jacket—let’s put it on together.

    • Celebrate their attempts at independence: You are really trying hard to spread the cream cheese on your bagel.  Or, You climbed to the top of the jungle gym all by yourself!  You are getting bigger and stronger everyday.

    • Coach them in completing new tasks: Okay, now put that napkin in the garbage can.  Lift your hand a little higher.  Now drop the napkin in!

    To learn more about Literacy development from 24 to 36 months, click here.


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