First 100 Words – Advancing Your Toddler’s Vocabulary With Words and Signs

Now that your child can say or sign a few common words, you need to begin to expand his vocabulary to include different kinds of words. Most babies learn nouns, or names of people, places, and things first. Remember that your baby also needs words for actions (verbs), locations (prepositions), and descriptions (adjectives/adverbs) so that he can?combine these to form phrases. Children typically begin to produce phrases when their vocabularies are close to 50 words. It’s almost impossible for your child to make the jump from words to phrases unless he has expanded his vocabulary. If your child isn’t yet talking, but has become a good signer, be sure to expand his signs too. Below are lists of words by category that most children include in their early vocabularies, for first 100 or so words, compiled from several sources. If your child is not yet talking and you would like to know the sign for word, you can cut and paste the following link to your browser to search for a demonstration of the sign –

Social Function Words

more, please, thank you, hi/hello, bye-bye, again, sorry,?uh-oh, yes/uh-huh/okay, no/uh-uh

Common Action Words (Verbs)

eat, drink, go, stop, run, jump, walk, sleep/night-night, wash, kiss, open, close, push, pull, fix, broke, play,want, hug, love, hurt, tickle, give (“gimme”), all gone, all done, dance, help, fall, shake, see, watch, look, sit, stand (up), throw, catch, blow, cry, throw, swing, slide, climb, ride, rock, come (“C’mon”), color/draw

Location Words (Prepositions)

up, down, in, out, off, on, here, there (Plus later ones such as around, under, behind, over at/after age 3)

Descriptive Words (Adjectives/Adverbs)

big, little, hot, cold, loud, quiet, yucky, icky, scary, funny, silly, dirty, clean, gentle, wet, soft, fast, slow, color words (red, blue, yellow, green, pink, orange, purple, black, white, brown) and quantity words (all, none, more, some, rest, plus early number words – especially 1, 2, 3)

Early Pronouns

me, mine, my, I, you, it (Then toward age 3 the gender pronouns such as he, she, him, her )

Just in case you’re wondering, here’s a list of the most common nouns:

ball, book, choochoo, train, bike, rain, bubbles, car, truck, boat, plane, baby, bowl, spoon, diaper, sock, shoe, shirt, pants, hat, star, flower, house, tree, brush, towel, bath, chair, table, bed, blanket, light, cookie, cracker, chip, cheese, apple, banana, ice cream, cereal (Cheerios/ “O’s”), candy, milk, juice, water, dog, cat, fish, bird, duck, cow, horse, bunny, bear, pig, lion, elephant, giraffe, zebra, monkey, chicken, butterfly, bee, frog, alligator, snake

Plus names for people – Mama, Dada, brother and sister names, pet names, grandparents & other family members, and favorite characters such as Elmo, Dora, Diego,etc…



  1. Oba King on November 19, 2008 at 8:14 am

    This is wonderful information to share. Thank you. The content is so important. I will tell everyone about your website. Especially my participants and Parents of children in my Early Childhood learning programs.

  2. michele on February 10, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    THank you for the list. My son has a large vocabulary of nouns but is missing most of the other words and I think I have focused way more on labeling objects so this was a good reminder for me. He loves to look at picture books with the objects labeled and so we do those alot.

    One question…we know all our animal sounds but how to I get him to say the animals. he knows all his animals but will only label them by sound…so horse is nay, ect. he’s 23 months old.

  3. Laura on February 10, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    Keep at it! The words will come if you keep helping him make the association with not only the sound, but the word. Laura

  4. Bobbie Sumner on September 26, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    My toddler is 3 years old and really struggles on saying words and expressing what he needs. I’ve been concerned with this since he turned 2. Not sure what to do. I’m getting really worried and wondered if this might help him.

  5. Saraj on November 4, 2010 at 9:45 am

    My daughter is 17 months old. This list of words help me compile a list of what I know my daughter already knows, and helped me realize I need to emphasize more of the pronouns. We use them, but I don’t tend to use them a lot when I ask her questions about things. So now, I know I need to be asking and saying things with You, I, me, it, etc in them making a little more emphasis on them. We do a lot of of, “What’s that?” which has made her have a very large vocabulary in nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Now I think I am going to shift my questions to more open ended questions, and talk more about me, I, you, it, and other pronouns.

  6. Laura on November 10, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Thanks for your comment Saraj! You sound like a great mom!

  7. Latisha on April 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Dr. Laura, I recently purchased your DVD’s and am reviewing the “Teach Me to Talk” one so that I can begin to learn how to better work with my 28month old son. He has been diagnosed with Mixed Expressive Receptive Language Disorder, after haveing being misdiagnosed with Autism at age 19months. There’s so much information on your site, for which I am grateful, however, I’m not quite sure where to start. I know my son knows a lot of words because he can follow a number of simple directions. But he doesn’t use words to convey his needs at all. He is currently getting speech and developmental therapy, but still isn’t really using words. He will sing songs randomly, and babbles and hums literally all day long. He repeats words when you say them without prompting and he repeats words that he hears on his favorite movies, even imitating when kids scream or laugh hysterically. He can sign “more” and “all done”, but almost always does so only when prompted and he repeats the word at the same time. With that being said, what is the best approach to increase his use of words meaningfully. The only word/sign he uses consistantly to convey something is the word “No.”

  8. Laura on April 3, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Latisha – Keep teaching him new signs and giving him cues to use his words. Toddlers must imitate words for a while before they begin to use those words spontaneously. Because he also has the receptive language issues, even though he is following simple directions in context, he is having difficulty on some level linking meanings with words (or else he wouldn’t have the receptive language dx too) and you’ll need to be repetitive and persistent to help him consistently understand so that he can consistently imitate and then finally begin to use words on his own. It’s sometimes a long process, but it’s very good that he’s already using imitative words and verbal play with singing and babbling. You KNOW he can talk, so now you just have to work to make talking meaningful for him. Using signs or pictures may help him make those connections. Hang in there!! Thanks for your question!Laura (No PhD… so just plain Laura 🙂 )

    • Anonymous on May 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm

      This response answered my questions. My son like Latisha’s is not verbally expressive but will repeat or mimick when I say the word. I will follow your suggestions and continue working with him. Patience is the key.

      • Coby on October 15, 2016 at 1:04 pm

        My grandson also has mixed receptive-expressive language problems and is autistic. We have come to see it as a blessing and not a burden. He thinks differently from other people but so do we. He just made us notice.

        One thing I noticed early on was that he was using the same words, leaving out the same words, and putting words in the same order as American Sign Language. He also used some ASL idioms, as they would be translated into spoken words, without ever learning sign.

        This tells me he is a strong visual thinker. He figures things out long before he is able to express them. He is 7 now and still using some of the same expressions he did at 3 or 4. And most of all, he is a real gentlemen, sensitive and polite.

        Live long ans prosper

    • BB on August 4, 2016 at 1:23 am

      Thank you so much Laura. I guess I got a lot of answer from this conversation. We stay in Japan and my son (31 months old) goes to an exclusive Japanese speaking daycare. At 27 months my son was diagnosed by a doctor as a possible case of Autism (moderate)! He performed poorly in IQ test which involved speech and picture reading. My SLP who is an American having 20 years of experience in treating Autism, says she does not think my son is autistic but having a receptive speech delay. She also thinks he is smart, having good problem solving skills, and super-curious! He is same as Latisha’s son, used to sing a lot of songs, or sometimes communicate his needs through songs! He never used to imitate or repeat our words. These days he is imitating a lot, repeating words, seem to have ‘learnt the way to learn’! He can follow few simple directions, but still he seems a bit confused at times as he seem to not trust words or gestures. Your website was a great help for us, thanks a ton for being such an angel for us. Now the problem is, his vocabulary is growing very slowly, so he is not advancing fast or on concrete footing in taking commands. We decided to buy your DVD for teach me to listen and obey. Do you have special recommendation for him? What do you think his case is?

  9. Amy M Maschue, M.S. CCC-SLP on October 25, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    What a great article! I am a mom of 5 and a speech-language pathologist and I really love your site. It’s so important for parents to know that they are their child’s main teacher for communication skills-whether typically developing or delayed. Parents and family members need the type of information you provide to find their confidence in the process of development! Great job. You can find more suggestions for parents in the book 10 Minutes for Talking: How to Raise a Strong Communicator in 10 Minutes a Day. It focuses on giving parents ideas to facilitate speech and language development during daily activities.

  10. Ahmet Haşim on September 3, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    Thanks a lot for the list. Nice content

  11. Azeb on November 2, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Great stuff. Thank you very much for this material. I am going to use it now to teach my daughter. So grateful for your contribution. Just a help in need. Thanks Again!!

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As a retired audiologist with a fabulous and language delayed grandson, I used your podcasts and outstanding publication, The Autism Workbook, to inspire and guide me over the past year.

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