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Why verbs are so important to speech and language development

Updated: Jan 31

Let's talk about verbs!

Three kids jumping

The first words a child often says are nouns (e.g., doggie, mommy, daddy). Nouns are tangible, we can point to them, hold them, and show them to a child who is learning their first words. But, as language develops, it's important to incorporate verbs as well.

When a child has about 50 single words, they are ready to start combining the words into phrases (e.g., Daddy ball, Mommy up). This often happens between 20-24 months old. To support the process of combining words, kids need verbs!

From a speech therapist's perspective, when working with young children who need support to say their first words or expand their vocabulary, I share with families the importance of including verbs in our "target word" list. A "target word" list in speech therapy is the list of words that we are intentionally working on in a speech therapy session and the family is carrying over at home.

To model verbs:

Green wind up car

  • Act them out during play using animals, baby dolls, or people. Wind Up toys are a staple in my speech therapy sessions! They are great for modeling verbs because after winding up the toy, they do some sort of action (i.e., walk, jump, hop, drive, fly). Wind-up toys also lead to lots of repetition, which we want when modeling first words and they're very entertaining for kids!

neon music notes

  • Listen to songs and act out the verbs in the lyrics. Some great songs for modeling verbs that I often use in speech therapy are:

    • Hop Little Bunnies by Toddler Fun Learning

    • Party Freeze Dance by Kiboomers

    • The Bath Song by Super Simple Songs

a stack of books with their spine showing

  • Read books with lots of verbs and act them out as you read. Some picture books for modeling verbs:

    • All Better by Henning Löhlein

      • Abby introduced me to this book and I can't get enough of it! So many actions (e.g., wipe, kiss, rub, etc.)

    • Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

      • A classic that has so many verbs and opportunities to act out the verbs!

    • I'm a Dirty Dinosaur by Janeen Brian

      • Abby introduced me to this one as well! She also shares more about how to use this story and extend the learning on her Instagram @the.type.b.slp


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