Functional vocabulary is the vocabulary that we use in our day to day life. It is very important for kids to know the names of daily use words and express them. If kids can express functional vocabulary, they can become happier and independent. I have given below the techniques of how to develop functional vocabulary and language for children with delayed speech and language.

Why to focus on functional vocabulary?

There are two types of vocabulary for kids- Academic vocabulary, functional vocabulary. We normally start talking to the babies by using words that are commonly used.

Think normally you have an infant in your family. Everyone talks to him and ask ‘come’, ‘go’, ‘want’, ‘smile’, ‘Dudu’, ‘water’, ‘mamma’, ‘papa’, sleep etc. These all are words which can enrich the functional language of all of us.

Now, let us think if we have a child with delayed language and vocabulary. Should we encourage learning of the words required for fulfilling a basic need? Or we should focus on the academic vocabulary- shapes, colors etc.

You should always focus on the need based words, which is known as functional vocabulary. This definitely helps in boosting language skills requires for daily communication with the children.

How to develop functional vocabulary and language in online therapy and physical therapy?

Step 1 of Functional vocabulary development 

At first we choose basic and important words for the beginners. Thus, I am taking beginner goals to achieve the first words of vocabulary development.

Here we can start with the words of basic needs which are: Mom, dad, food, water, washroom, sleep, milk, pain, give, want. 

 First words in pictures: check pictures for functional vocabulary


You can use real objects or pictures to play with your child. For teaching a word ‘water’, speak ‘do you want to drink water’, repeat it many times in different happy tones. Repeat single word ‘water’ many times, and give water to drink. 

In the same way teach ‘sleep’, while playing with the child, take a toy teddy and make this teddy lie down and tap this teddy. Sing song ‘are you sleeping..’ while tapping. Ask your student or your child to tap and sing the same song for the teddy.

Now do babbling to teach ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ and sing songs while teaching these words. The best song is ‘mama darling, papa darling, I love you’

In the same way you can play with each object and teach children new words and sentences everyday.

Step 2 of Functional vocabulary development 

In step two, you can teach daily use words through pictures, play and while using them in reality. You can watch this video of teaching bathroom objects in an online session.

During lunch or dinner time, ask your child to put plates, bowls, spoons, glasses on the table. You can ask them to put mama plate, papa plate, sister’s plate, my plate. In the same way put food, salt, hot etc. anything that is used in your family. Speak name of food, vegetables that you are eating and actions you do at that moment for Eg. ‘eat’, drink, ‘sit’ etc.

Choose different daily household vocabulary, shopping vocabulary, school vocabulary, etc. to develop functional words and sentences.

PPT’S to teach functional vocabulary-1

Videos to develop functional vocabulary

In this video you can see, how I use PPT’s to teach names and uses of daily objects in #onlinetherapy classes

These activities can be do it yourself at home, but remember these activities are not a replacement of advice and sessions given by a certified Speech Therapist or a doctor. These are the valuable tips for parents and caregivers to generalize and teach language at home.

One thought on “How to develop functional vocabulary and language in toddlers”
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