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Toddler Milestones: Trouble With Verbs

Hooray! Your toddler's starting to talk, and she's likely full of nouns like "dada" and "doggy." But what about verbs? Unlike nouns, which are concrete objects that babies can see and manipulate, verbs are more abstract-and trickier, says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia. Think about a toddler learning the word "running": She hears "No running!" from parents at the playground; she hears Mom say she's "running late"; she hears Dad complain about the faucet not "running." No wonder the word might be hard for an 18-month-old to learn! Don't worry about this lag time in verb learning, says Hirsh-Pasek. It will happen, but as with all language development, describing what you see around you ("That plane is flying just like birds do!") may help coax verbs out of your budding chatterbox.

Research shows that it's easier for young children to learn a verb when they can see what it means.

"Easy" Verbs Actions that babies see happening in front of them, the same way every time:

  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Sleep
  • Hug

"Hard" Verbs Actions that are abstract (and harder to see) or have multiple meanings:

  • Catch
  • Think
  • Hold
  • Wish