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Helping Toddlers with Words

By 15 months, most toddlers can say 10 to 15 basic words. But soon, advanced words, like "yogurt," and specific ones, like "mailman" instead of "man," creep into their speech. By 2, most kids can say more than 100 words, understand another 100 more, and use two- and three-word sentences.

Toddlers' memories are improving, and they're beginning to link what they hear to what they see, says Rhea Paul, Ph.D., professor at the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, CT. For instance, after months of hearing "milk" and seeing a bottle, kids connect the two and start to say, or just comprehend, the word. How you can help:

Use the same word at different times. "If you see a collie, point it out and say, 'Look at the dog!' " says Paul. "As a pug strolls by, say, 'There's another dog!' " This way, your child learns what a "dog" is and doesn't just look for collies to use the word.

Get specific. In addition to pointing out things you see to your child, explain what they do. Even if he doesn't get it yet, he'll hear some new words in your explanations.

Put words in context and repeat them. As you dress your child, say, "The T-shirt is going over your head. Now the T-shirt is on your body." Using words he already understands when introducing new ones will help him learn them more easily.