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How children learn to use verbs

little boy playing with blocks with his father

Key points:

  1. Children typically begin using verbs or action words in their second year of life, which is an important milestone for language development.
  2. There is variability in language acquisition, but it is common for children to use at least a few verbs by the age of two.
  3. Parents can help their child learn new verbs by keeping track of the words they already know, using action words during activities, showing the meaning of verbs through actions, and emphasizing verbs during story time.
  4. Repetition is key in helping children learn new words, so it’s important to use verbs consistently and repeatedly in different contexts.

A child’s first words normally consist of nouns –whether it’s mama, dada, or ball– because they represent a person or thing. During their second year of life, however, children usually begin incorporating verbs or action words like go, come, and play to their vocabulary.


This is an important milestone for language development, because it means that a child is ready to begin building early sentences. There’s a lot of variability in language acquisition and how many verbs children use when they are 2-3 years old. Regularly, children can say at least a few verbs by the time they turn two and this number increases continually.

Here are a few things you can do to make sure your child’s growing vocabulary includes verbs:

  1. Keep track of the verbs your child already understands and says. Making a list is a good idea! That way, you can emphasize the verbs they are still learning and keep track of the ones they already use.
  2. Think of things your little one likes to do and the action words that describe them. Then use those words while doing that activity! For example, if they like to play with blocks, you can use the words build, topple, and fall to describe what they’re doing.
  3. When you do an action use the verb in a sentence. Remember that verbs are action words and that means you can actually show your child what they mean. This will help them understand and remember the word.
  4. Repeat those words a lot! Children need to hear new words many times before they begin to use them themselves. Try to use new verbs several times when completing an activity, and then use it again the next time you do that same activity. It’s important to be constant!
  5. Emphasize verbs when reading a story. When you’re reading together, try to emphasize the actions that the characters are doing and talk to your little one about them.

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