How many words should a 2 year old know?

Wondering how many words your toddler should know? I’ll give you the short answer, the longer answer, and an alternative way of approaching this question.

How many words should a 2 year old know?

When we’re thinking about vocabulary knowledge, we need to consider whether a child understands the word and whether they can use the word themselves. Often children understand more words than they can use, which means that the ‘vocabulary comprehension’ number for a two year old is in the hundreds, whilst the ‘vocabulary use’ number is closer to 50 words.

Remember: there’s a whole lot more to communication than just word count. Your little one is busy figuring out lots of important skills, even if they aren’t yet using lots of spoken words. Find out more about all your child is learning and what to expect when in my free mini communication workshop.

If you’d like to dig into all the details of how we help kids learn to talk, then do check out Toddler Talk.

What to do if your two year old isn’t talking

If your two year old isn’t talking yet it can feel daunting knowing where to begin. There’s so much information out there, what do you pay attention to? This video was inspired by a question from a parent and includes some simple ideas to help you get started.

What to do if your toddler isn't talking

Firstly, spend time together! I know this seems obvious, but when kids aren’t talking it can be easy to think they’re happier playing by themselves. So, I encourage you to keep turning up for the play, without it having to look a particular way. As I’ve said before, it’s all play!

Allow for the quiet. It can feel awkward when noone is talking and very tempting for us to fill in all the silence. But, allowing that quiet thinking time is a valuable part of communication practice.

Practise presence. If you’re worried about your child’s communication development it can be easy to get stuck overthinking and catastrophising. And this pulls us away from the actual thing that’s happening right now. Paying attention isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it.

Look for how your child communicates. When we look at the variety of ways your child is already communicating, then we’re in a better position to teach them the words to match.

Celebrate the small wins. It can be a long road helping children learn to talk. Noticing and appreciating every tiny step along the way helps to keep us going.

Interested in more?

Check out my full YouTube playlist on helping toddlers to start talking.

Check out my Toddler Talk programme for parents.

Speech & Language Ideas for Tea Party Play

The tea party set is a regular toy found in my speech and language therapy bag. There are so many skills we can practice with this type of play and it is universally popular with the kids I meet.

In this video I share several ideas for making the most of tea party play to build language and communication skills.

Talking tips for tea party play

Action words are a great thing to focus on within food play. When your child learns more action words, it’s easier for them to start joining words together. You might model words like chop, squish, stir, or social action words like help and share.

You can also model simple phrases about what we’re doing, which helps children learn simple instructions, like ‘Let’s give an apple to teddy’.

Play food is also useful to practice sorting. Understanding how items can be grouped and organised is helpful for developing a child’s semantic network, their internal word bank. You could try sorting things into sweet and savoury, or hard and squishy food.

We can also practise social exchanges within tea party, e.g. please and thank you, would you like one, let’s share, let’s give one to…

We can also practise problem-solving within tea party. If we introduce a problem we can talk together about how we might fix it, e.g. ‘We only have one strawberry but teddy and cat both want some… What shall we do?!’

Tea party play can also be all about banging stuff together! That exploratory play is really valuable for learning and development too.

If you and your little one enjoy play food and tea parties, then check out my video on making playdough cupcakes.

What children have taught me about communication

Baby playing with toys

Have you ever had one of those sore throats where you lose your voice almost entirely? Suddenly all the little comments and contributions you‘d normally make with ease become laden with effort. You tell yourself that the thing you wanted to say wasn’t that important after all and you quickly stop trying.

When I lost my voice last winter it really affected my confidence. After all, If I can’t join in, then why am I here? I found myself smiling all the wider, in an effort to show that I was present, despite my lack of contribution. Hey! It’s me here! I can’t possibly speak, but I’m still thinking about everything that’s going on and I want to be a part of it!

It brought to mind the many children I support as a Speech and Language Therapist. How much they want to contribute and be a part of things, how eager their smiles. For them, speaking up is hard. Perhaps harder than we can imagine. The communication chain can break down at any number of points, but there’s lots we can all do to help knit it back together.


Be curious

When we approach a situation with open curiosity, rather than holding on to our idea of the ‘right way’ we create more opportunities to explore and learn together. If a child creates a long line of train track, instead of a nice neat round loop, it’s tempting for us to dive in and ‘fix it’. But, if we hold back for a moment and think ‘I wonder what will happen next,’ some of the best problem-solving and conversations emerge.

Embrace the silence

Often the most important ideas need time before we’re brave enough to say them out loud. In my work we often describe this quiet as ‘busy thinking time’. When we embrace the awkward silence, we give room for these ideas to flourish. Communication is about so much more than talking. Allowing a little more quiet is a hugely powerful strategy we can use to give children time to form their ideas and figure out how to share them with us.

Give attention to gain attention

There’s a reason we call it ‘paying’ attention. It requires focus and effort, ignoring the many distractions all around us. How many of us can say that we give our full attention to every conversation? We fly a mile a minute and so much of modern-day life expects this from us. So the challenges that children have in paying attention is something we can surely relate to. In therapy sessions we focus on giving a child our best quality attention, being truly present. When we do this we create a space that really allows for the best attention from all of us.

I’m always on the lookout for lessons learned in unexpected places. So, it’s easy for me to say that my dog has also taught me a thing or two. Find out more in this honest post.

3 ways to use stacking cups for speech and language development

You will always find a set of stacking cups in my therapy bag. They’re often thought of as a ‘baby toy’, but they’re actually useful with a wide range of ages. In Speech and Language Therapy sessions, you’ll find me using them for all sort of activities, including early language development, speech sound practice and more.

In this video you’ll find out about three ways that you can use stacking cups with your little one to build their attention, vocabulary, and your conversation together. I use stacking cups to help children learn about resilience, to help them learn key phrases and also help them develop their understanding of size words. I also use cups for sound sorting with my older children as well. Find out all about it in this video.

How to use STACKING CUPS for speech and language development

I hope this gives you a few new ways to play with this old favourite. If your child enjoys playing with stacking cups, I bet they also love balloons! Check out this post for ideas to build attention and language with balloons.