Learning New Words (Part 1)

Children learn new words at an incredible rate in the first 5 years of their lives. Parents and carers can help to develop a child’s vocabulary through fun and simple activities. We will discuss some of these activities in our blog posts (you will get to practise these in our classes too!)

In our first post of this series we will look at how many words your child will be using at different ages. Remember that each child develops at different rates, and if you have any concerns about your child’s speech and language development you should see your GP or feel free to drop us a line via our Contact Page.


18 months

  • Uses between 5-20 words but these will not be pronounced correctly yet
  • Will take turns to repeat sounds with you
  • Will request things that they need or want (eg. more, up) They will likely be using gesture to do this to begin with.
  • Will use one word to represent a whole category (e.g. ‘dog’ is used for all animals with 4 legs)

2 years

  • Uses between 50-200 words
  • Begins putting two words together (e.g. “more water”)
  • Begins to describe objects (e.g. big dog)
  • May use simple sentences: noun + verb (“doggy go”)
  • Starts to use “ing” ending
  • Starting to pluralise items (“dogs”)

3 years

  • Uses around 500 words! Understands many more
  • Learns new words in their context
  • Is joining sentences together with ‘and’
  • Enjoys looking at books with you and can retell parts of familiar stories
  • Can use “what, who and where” in sentences and is beginning to use ‘why’
  • Can use possessive ‘s’ (“Tom’s car”)

4 years

  • Uses upwards of 1000 words
  • Can make longer and complex sentences. Uses between 4-7 words
  • Starts using conjunction ‘because’ to enable them to express more complex ideas (I am not going to the park today because it is raining)
  • Can use pronouns correctly
  • Can use regular past tense ending (painted, danced)
  • Can use irregular past tense (ate, sang)


If you feel that your child is not quite at the right stage for their age it is really important that you spend some time observing what they are able to do. It is really helpful if you can record the words or sounds they are using, so that you can share this information with your GP or SLT.

Don’t forget that you know your child best and you are their advocate! If you are concerned about their development it is important that you follow your instinct and seek help. Early assessment and intervention provide the best outcomes.


  1. Rachel

    Also, your Health Visitor is a great source of information and advice. Please check out your local Children’s Centre for more information about their drop in clinics and home visits.

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