Toddler Language

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I saved the best for last! Vocabulary learning!! This is one of the most important language skills since it is the foundation for both expressive and receptive language abilities and communication in general. Children sometimes create splinter skills in this department or don’t fully grasp what it is to learn a vocabulary word. Luckily, you are here and your child is going to start off on the right foot!

By 4 years old, a child should be able to know the function of a vocabulary word:

  • What does ____(vocabulary word) do?
  • What do you do with _____(vocabulary word)?

This section is comprised of:

  • Drill Practice
  • Functional Grames

Drill Practice:

To initially teach a child how to identify the function of a vocabulary word, begin with the flashcard activity.  The visuals (pictures) on the cards combined with the decreased distractions of daily life are very beneficial. However, don’t spend too much time here, maybe just a day or two.

Functional Games:

After initially teaching how to identify the function of a vocabulary word, start to play one of the functional games. These games will help with generalization of progress made to conversational speech. 

Vocabulary Function Games

1. Flash Card Teaching Phase

What You Need:

Vocabulary Function Flashcards

How to Play:

 Sit down at a table with your child. Show your child a card and ask one of the following questions:

  • What does ____(vocabulary word) do?
  • What do you do with _____(vocabulary word)?


  • What do you do with an apple? Eat
  • What does a dog do? Bark

If your child doesn’t know the answer, give it to him/her while explaining your reasoning. Then, ask the question again and see if he/she says the correct answer! If not, provide the correct response and move on. 


Practice the flashcards for a few weeks or until it seems like your child is getting the hang of it. However, don't spend too much time here. Move on to the games below. They are more functional and you will see faster progress when more time is spent on them. 

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2. Playtime

Needed Materials:

Your child’s favorite toys

How To Play:

While playing with your child, ask about the function of certain toys. 

Ideas To Try:

  • Cars: To Drive
  • Balls: To throw/bounce
  • Play Food: To eat
  • Tea Set: To drink
  • Blocks: To build
  • Chair: To sit
  • Trains: To go, Bring people
  • Planes: To fly

Try to make your questions as natural as possible and try to avoid playtime turning into a quiz. To accomplish this, ask questions while you play such as:

  • “Oh, you have a good ball. What do you do with a ball?” 

Hopefully, your child will say “throw it!” If not, tell them the right answer and get back to playing. 

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3. Function Day

Needed Materials:


How To Play:

Pick a day to focus on function of vocabulary words. Throughout the day, while in the car, shopping, playing, eating, etc…., ask your child about the function of different objects. 

  • What does ____(vocabulary word) do?


  • What do you do with _____(vocabulary word)?

The great thing about this “game” is that your child is exposed to and challenged with a variety of different vocabulary words. Also, your child is thinking about what things do or what you can do with them in their natural environment. The goal is that he/she will start to think in this manner about all new vocabulary concepts...forever :)

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› Function


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