What counts as a word?

May 26, 2022 | Development, Language, Speech Tips

One of the most crucial pieces to know when counting words is exactly what counts as a word.

This is, by far, the most frequently asked question by parents in therapy and on our instagram page @speechsisters:

“How many words should my child be saying?”

When children are learning to talk, their words are not expected to sound exactly like adults say them. So let’s get into it… What counts as a word?

Word Approximations:

A word approximation is when a child says only part of the full word. For example, your child might say “ba” for ball. This is common and expected in very young children.

Animal Sounds:

“Woof!” “Moo!” These all count as words! You may find that these are some of the first sounds/words you hear from your little one! They are easy and fun for your child to imitate!

Sound Effects:

Words such as “toot toot” or “beep beep” count as words! When your child uses a phrase like this, it counts as one word! 

Exclamatory Words:

These words include “boo!” “yay!” and “weee!” These are considered social words, and your child will have fun watching your face when you say these words! 

Sign Language:

You bet! Sign language counts as words! If your child is signing “more” or “all done,” that counts toward their total word count!

Remember, we count it as a word if your toddler uses the word CONSISTENTLY, INDEPENDENTLY, and INTENTIONALLY to refer to someone or something. If your baby or toddler says the word once, it would NOT count as a word. It is important to keep these word types in mind when counting the number of words that your child has. You may find that your child says more words than you thought once you refer to this list of what counts as a word.

If you want to learn more about how to get your little one communicating and climbing the language ladder, check out our free PDF.

If you’re interested in how to teach your child to use these words, our courses can teach you how!

To learn simple and effective strategies to help get your little one talking, check out our Talk on Track (newborn-14 months) and Time to Talk: Toddler Course (15-36 months). We’d love to equip you to experience the joy of your little one talking to you!

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Hi! We're Brooke & Bridget.

We know what you want most is for your child to talk. With more than 20 years of combined experience, we’ve diagnosed and treated hundreds of children with a variety of communication disorders and delays... if your child is having trouble communicating, we can absolutely help. 

We love everything about our work, but we're most excited about guiding parents with practical tips to integrate speech and language techniques into their everyday routines. We'd be honored to partner with you, too!

(And yes, we really are sisters!)

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