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ACTION WORDS: top verbs for your toddler

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Parenting a toddler is not easy. In fact, keeping up with a little human being who is nearly always on the go is exhausting business. Not to forget that toddler-hood is prime time for several important milestones to be met. One of these milestones is of course, the development of language. Toddlers have busy brains and your little one's brain is soaking up all the information that you are feeding it.

Now what's the best way to combine your child's need for movement and language development? Well, it's movement games that teach language. Action words or verbs are particularly important words that a child is mastering around this time. By the time your child is about 2 years of age, he should already know and even say at least a handful of verbs.

This blog will help you get started on those all important verbs.

The earliest verbs that your child learns to understand are the ones she will naturally be hearing a lot of:


eat, sleep, drink, go, kiss, tickle, wash, brush, look, jump, write, hug, read, give and cry.


Depending on the things you like to do with your toddler, this list can vary widely - for example, if mum has a love for cleaning and does a lot of it, it's not unusual to find a toddler whose early verbs includes 'sweep' !

The second tier of words could include:


throw, kick, catch, open, bark, fall, come, dance, run, fly, climb, watch TV and spill.


To begin with your child might only say the verb on its own. However, soon he is going to find interesting ways to combine it with a noun to form two-word utterances - for example, 'Mummy look!'. Or with an adverb to say something like 'Run fast!'

Verbs are important parts of learning a language. A child who is slow to develop a verb vocabulary could go on to having delayed language development. If this is the case, it's important that we intervene as quickly as possible to make sure that the delay is not significant.

What can you do if your child does not have a big enough vocabulary of verbs?

First, keep a record of all that your child says. Your child might be using words that represent verbs, even if it's not the actual verb. For example, if you refer to going out as 'bye-bye' all the time, your child will use 'bye-bye' to refer to that action. This is fine and you can count it as a verb.

Secondly, make sure that you are modelling lots of verbs for your child. Keep the above list of verbs in your mind. These are the easy, common verbs your child can learn quickly. Use these as many times as you can when you are talking to him. Refer to them in consistently the same way, and preferably, using the actual verb itself. (This means that you refer to 'eat' as 'eat' and not as 'num-num')

The best time to teach a verb is when you are actually doing the action. For example, when you are giving a bath is a good time to repeat the words 'wash' or 'clean'. ('Wash your hands', 'Wash your fingers', 'Wash you tummy' etc).

Repetition is key. Children have to hear the words several, several times before they feel confident enough to repeat it.

Don't forget that your child's copied version of the word might be quite different to how you said it. Don't worry. Just praise her for the effort.

If you're looking for more ideas, try this blog on our site.

We also have 100 top verbs (including the ones in the lists above) in our Brainy English app (by Brainy Bug Resources). Designed especially with very young children in mind, you will find our exciting games and charming images, perfect to teach your toddler.

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