Language Development

The Importance of Verbs for Toddler Language Development

October 22, 2018

I’m Brooke
I'm a speech therapist specializing in early language, but more importantly, I'm a mom of a toddler who has been on her own journey with physical and occupational therapy
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As a Pediatric Speech Pathologist, one of the number one questions I get is, “How many words should my toddler be saying?” While the number of words a child is using is important, another important factor is the types of words your toddler is using.

The Importance of Verbs

In a study by Hadley, Rispoli, and Hsu (2015). The researchers found that the number of verbs in children’s vocabularies were better predictors than the number of nouns. Moreover, there was a relationship between the types of verbs and the number of words children were putting together when measured three months later.  The transitive verbs (verbs that have a direct object acting  such as “The dog ran”) accounted for the strength in this relationship.

Modeling Verbs

What this tells us is that when we are modeling good language for our kiddos, we want to make sure we are emphasizing verbs. It can be easy to find yourself only labeling pictures (ball, bear, etc.). Instead of only labeling items and pictures, try adding a verb . Here are some examples:

That’s a ball. It bounces!

Look at the car go!

That teddy bear is sleeping….Night teddy bear!

You kicked the ball!

When you are reading a book, you can incorporate verbs and actions by talking about the picture such as “That boy is running.”

Tip-try pairing verbs with gestures to make them stand out even more!

Think about it this way; around two years, toddlers are combining words.  It’s hard to  create word combinations with a vocabulary made primarily of nouns! The more verbs, adjectives, and pronouns your child has, the more “material” they have for making phrases. For more ideas, check out my post – Ten Things to Say to a Toddler Instead of, “What is that?”

Nursery rhymes and songs

Many children’s songs and nursery rhymes teach the importance of verbs (Jack and Jill went up the hill. Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, etc.). Nursery rhymes teach your little one rhythm and rhyme, which is great for language and literacy development! Additionally, they teach children how those words work.


Next time you are reading a book or chasing your toddler, remember to add action words! It may help their vocabulary growth more than you even know!


Brooke Andrews Speech Pathologist in HoustonBrooke Andrews, M.A. CCC-SLP is owner of The Speech Dynamic and offers speech therapy in homes and schools across Houston. Brooke specializes in speech and language development to toddlers and preschoolers and provides in-home speech therapy to families in Houston.



Toddlers’ Verb Lexicon Diversity and Grammatical Outcomes.

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