Infants and toddlers build vocabulary through play and daily interactions with adults

An educator and a toddler point to stacked blocks

At A Glance

Vocabulary growth in the early years is fascinating and fast! Young children learn new words through their daily interactions and play. And they often understand more words than they can say. We can support children’s vocabulary development by repeating words across the day, teaching selected words, and providing child-friendly definitions. 

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at ways you can support infants' and toddlers' vocabulary skills

Repeat Words Often

Provide multiple opportunities for children to hear and experience a new word. Notice how this educator repeats the word “pear” many times, provides examples (real and pictured), and when asked, comments on related features (middle/core).

Connect Words Across the Day

Themed materials and activities are a great way to support children’s vocabulary development! Notice how this educator encourages children to use animal names during choice time and also names the farm animals while reading.

Provide Child-Friendly Definitions

Use a mix of familiar and new words to define and describe materials like this educator does with the characters. Doing this helps children make connections between what they know and what they are learning.

The Snowy Day book cover


The Snowy Day

Written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, this book uses descriptive words to tell a story about a young boy’s experiences as he encounters winter and snow.


Feast for 10

Written and illustrated by Cathryn Falwell, this counting book about a family in a grocery store is filled with words about the different types of food they pick out together.

Feast for 10 book cover
Bird House book cover


Bird House

Written and illustrated by Blanca Gómez, this story uses interesting words to tell the story of a child and their abuela as they help save an injured bird.

Activity Cards for Infant and Toddler Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways to support children's vocabulary
Body Parts Songs Activity Card
Let's sing

Body Part Songs

Introduce new words for body parts while singing silly songs with children.

Collect A Category Activity Card
Let's collect

Collect a Category

Challenge children to collect objects that belong to a specific category.

Label It! Activity Card
Let's label

Label It!

Label objects with print as children identify them around the learning environment.

Whats in a Meal? Activity Card
let's talk

What's in a Meal?

Engage in conversations about foods children are eating during meals.


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills