25 Words Your Two-Year-Old Should Know

Toddlers master language at different rates, but by two-years-old, your child should be using a growing number of words. At this stage, most children have 50 words or more under their belts. By the very least, they should have 25.

Dr. Leslie Rescorla from the Child Study Institute at Bryn Mawr College developed a list of words that every two-year-old should be saying. This list identifies 25 specific words, the bare minimum your toddler should recognize. If your family speaks two or more languages, your child should be able to say 25 of these words in one of your languages.

The evolution of vocabulary generally takes a predictable path. By 24 months, these words are considered developmental milestones. If your two-year-old is saying fewer than these 25 words, researchers claim that further evaluation may be in order. This is just one guide. There are others.

You can start by evaluating your child at home. Talking Point, a website that supports language development for children, has developed a progress checker. Before taking their online questionnaire, check out these 25 words that researchers say your two-year-old should know.

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25 Baby

By two years old, your little one is becoming a more effective communicator. They will also understand a great deal of what you say. The truth is, your toddler can understand more words than he or she can say.

Researchers claim the word “baby” is one of the building blocks in your child’s vocabulary. Two-year-olds seem to love babies, and show interest in them. Perhaps this is why the word “baby” is included in this list.

Remember that vocabulary varies from one child to the next. Girls usually develop faster than boys. Children who have talkative families tend to be verbally advanced, as well. If you notice a developmental delay, your pediatrician can offer ways to help.

24 Mommy

Mama” is one of the first words a child learns. This word should emerge around your child’s first birthday. As children move from baby talk to real words, they are learning to use their tongues and lips to make sounds.

People tend to evaluate their child’s development against another child of the same age, but try not to do this. At this stage, there is a wide variation of language development.

Some kids are quiet, others are talkative. A quiet child is not necessarily slower or less advanced than a talkative child. It could mean the less verbal child is more selective with words and nothing to do with intelligence or ability. 

23 Daddy

In most cases, “Dada” or “Papa” will be the very first word your child learns. Mom, don’t feel jealous. Babies usually learn “Dada” before “Mama” because of the easier-to-pronounce consonants. Other than their parents, children quickly learn the names of people, including siblings, grandparents, and favorite TV characters such as Mickey Mouse and Elmo.

But if you think television is beneficial to your child’s speech development, think again. Parents are encouraged to limit TV time for their toddlers. Studies show the more you talk with your children, the bigger their vocabularies grow. A conversation has a much greater benefit to language development than just listening to people talk on television. Watching TV is a passive activity and a poor substitute for real-life verbal interaction.

22 Hello

In their second year, “hi” or “hello” should be a staple of your child’s vocabulary. Your toddler learns words by seeing and hearing them in action. The best way to teach is to set a good example.

For the most part, two-year-olds have moved past constant babbling. The pronunciation won’t sound perfect, but they should be saying real words, and not just gibberish.

If your toddler is developing slower than a typical rate, there could be a number of reasons. There may be a hearing problem, a problem with the mechanics of speech, a lack of communication at home, or a learning disability. It could also mean that your toddler just needs to learn these words in time. 

21 Bye-bye

At this age, saying bye-bye should be accompanied by a wave. Saying goodbye is a developmental milestone that a toddler should acquire by his or her second birthday. Your toddler should also understand simple directions, such as “Say bye-bye to Grandma.”

At two years old, parents should begin to evaluate their child’s language skills. Early detection of an impairment is critical to future learning. If you have any concerns, share them with your pediatrician.

It’s important to remember that children are individuals who reach stages at different times. Ultimately, be attentive to your toddler’s growing language skills, and share this information with your child’s doctor.

20 Yes

When two-year-olds begin to use the word “yes,” this is a sign they are evolving from infants to toddlers. By saying “yes,” they are becoming self-aware.

Not being able to say “yes” may indicate a late-talker. Again, parents should not panic if their child has not reached this milestone. There is a window of time when kids develop their talents. A child may simply be a late bloomer, but it's possible for your son or daughter to catch up with early intervention.

Until then, talk to your kids in the car, talk while you’re cooking, and talk during bath time. Practice makes perfect.

19 No

Some people equate a child learning the word “no” with the dreaded terrible twos. Rest assured, parents; learning the word “no” is as beneficial as learning the word “yes.” Sometimes it’s easier to identify what you do not like as opposed to what you like.

If your child is saying “no,” pay attention to how the word is used. For instance, does your child spontaneously say no, or do they merely imitate you saying no?

Children grow at their own pace, but parents can help to enrich their vocabularies. If your child is not up to par, talking and reading to your toddler can support their development.

18 Thank You

Thank you” is a conversational phrase that your child learns from you. If your child isn’t saying “thank you,” say it more often. Kids do what you do.

Not all children follow the same patterns, so a lack of “thank you” may not set off alarm bells. But if your child isn’t saying this phrase, he or she may benefit from speech and language analysis.

Take notice if your child is repeating the same words over and over. A reluctance to say new words may fit the bill for early intervention speech therapy.

17 Milk

Many two-year-olds have developed into chatterboxes. Your little one is probably asking a lot of questions to prolong a conversation. If your toddler is saying “milk,” he or she is right on track. However, your child may not be using the word “milk” for good reason. The word “bottle” or “baba” may be used instead.

When speaking to your child, don’t just think about quantity; think quality. Focus on basic words that your little one can comprehend. What matters is that your little one understands when you speak.

16 Juice

The development of speech continues with single words such as “juice.” At two, a child who uses the word “juice” may be trying to communicate different things. The toddler may want more juice. He or she could also be trying to tell you that the juice has been spilled.

To encourage a larger vocabulary, continually use new words. Describe the type of juice your child is drinking. “Here is some orange juice.” Or ask a question such as “Do you like apple juice?” Use descriptive words such as yummy, delicious, and healthy.

15 Dog

Your toddler will be able to name items they see often. If you have a dog, your pet will become part of his or her lexicon.

If your child is not saying “dog” or “doggy,” do not dismay. Although not knowing these words are considered “the canary in a coal mine,” researchers acknowledge that knowing a majority of these words is also acceptable. 

14 Cat

“Cat” is another common noun that should be familiar to your child at the age of two. Again, if you have a cat, this word will be a no-brainer for your son or daughter.

That being said, if “cat” or any of these exact terms are not in your little one’s vocabulary, there is not necessarily a problem. The words your child knows depends on his or her environment. What is most important is what a child understands.

13 Eye

Between two and three years of age, toddlers improve at naming body parts. By two years of age, your little should be able to point and identify his or her eye. But when the word is said by a two-year-old, the pronunciation will not sound perfect.

Speaking clearly is not easy for a young child. If you suspect a speech impediment or a language delay,your child’s doctor can provide a developmental screening that will assess speech, language, and communication skills.

12 Nose

The nose is a part of the body your toddler should recognize. At two, this is a common object your youngster should be able to identify upon request. Ask your child to point to his or her nose to measure their comprehension.

The whole idea of assessing kids at two-years-old is to provide early help if they need to catch up. With early intervention, late bloomers can close the gap by the time preschool starts. 

11 Ball

A ball is another item around the house that your toddler will see regularly. By two-years-old, your toddler will recognize this item, and call it by name. In some cases, a child will say “baa” to mean ball. Comprehension can be just as important as speech development.

Children may need to hear the words over and over before they begin to repeat. No matter what, it’s always beneficial for parents to take a step back to assess their own children objectively. 

10  Hot

At this stage, your little one should be able to recognize things in their environment. If your son or daughter uses a descriptive word such as “hot,” it means your child understands this concept. It could also mean that your child has learned this word, and likes to repeat it.

If they have an advanced awareness of their surroundings, they will include a more sophisticated word such as “soft.” Continue to encourage your toddler’s language development by expanding on what your child says. Also, use words that are easy to imitate.

9 Banana

By 24 months, your child may request certain foods. Researchers say banana should be one of them.

Your child may leave out letters if he or she is saying “banana.” For instance, he or she might say “nana” instead of “banana.” If this happens, do not correct your child’s mistake. Rather, repeat the correct pronunciation, such as “Do you like bananas?”

If your family doesn’t eat bananas, another fruit, such as “apple,” might replace this word. Your child’s vocabulary will tend to mirror his or her environment.

8 Cookie

According to Bryn Mawr College researchers, “cookie” is another word that should be on the vocabulary checklist. Again, if your child doesn’t say this word, perhaps your family doesn’t eat cookies. It may also be indicative of a deeper issue.

Kids learn by retaining information from their interactions. If your child is a late-talker, simply talking will not only boost his or her vocabulary, but it will also encourage good listening skills.

Moms and dads know their children. Your parental instincts will tell you if you need to be concerned about your child’s language development.

7 Car

Some two-year-olds will be able to describe a car with colors, or count the number of cars in a book. Kids who show an interest in cars will know more words that relate to cars.

If your toddler is saying “car,” that’s good. If not, don’t become overly concerned. A child may pronounce it “gar” because a g-sound is easier to say than a hard c-sound. Be patient, and help your son or daughter practice saying car. Eventually, your toddler will get the hang of it.

6 Book

If your toddler isn’t saying the word “book” by the age of two, reading books can help children learn to say the word. But the books you share don’t have to be story books. A great way to encourage word learning is to look at a photo album with your child.

Say things like “This is you on a swing at the park” or “Here you are with Max the doggie.” Point to people and objects while you describe them. Then, ask questions about some of the photos. Let your child comment about who is in the picture, and what they are doing.

Looking at a photo album will not only encourage conversation, but it will make your child feel special about being the star of the book.

5 Shoe

As a rule of thumb, “shoe” should be a part of your child’s speech by the age of two. If it isn’t, sit down on the floor with your child and a shoe. Allow your child to visualize what you are saying. And if the activity seems fun, your toddler will be more likely to express him or herself freely.

Literacy development is important, but there are many differences between children. Even if your toddler’s hearing and comprehension are excellent, not all children express themselves in the same way. It depends on the toddler.

4 Hat

By the time a child is two, the word “hat” should be one of the building blocks of language. At first, anything that sits on top of a head might be called a hat. For instance, a bowl might be described as a hat. Since kids learn words one at a time, understanding and word use will grow with time.

Children experience a word spurt between the ages of two and three. If your toddler isn’t grasping any of these words, chances are, comprehension is right around the corner.

3 Bath

Some call it the bath, some call it the tub. Whichever term you use, the average toddler should be familiar with this concept. If your toddler isn’t yet saying the word “bath,” do not panic. Milestones are a guide. Achievements are made in due time. Not using the word “bath” does not necessarily indicate a delay in speech.

There are many ways to evaluate your child. If your child has an increasing self-awareness, and can ask for help using words, your toddler is on the right track.

2 More

The concept of more begins around the second birthday. According to researchers, he or she should be able to ask for “more cookie” or “more juice.”

Then again, your child may not be the chatty type. A shy child may be reluctant to ask for more. Don’t lose sleep if this word is not yet in your child’s lexicon.

1 All Gone

By 24 months, you may notice that your little one is noticing the absence of certain items. For instance, your toddler may say “juice all gone.”

Linking two words together is another milestone. Your two-year-old should be able to say two-word phrases such as “baby crying,” “my cup” or “more milk.” Some children will be able to make two to four-word sentences. At 24 months, your toddler should also understand complex sentences, such as “Where’s your Teddy Bear?”

Although children set their own pace, milestones are developed to evaluate your child’s progress. If your child is not at the typical rate of development, notify your pediatrician.

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