Toddler word count

Q: How many words should a normal 2-year-old be using?

A:  2-year-old should have two to three dozen words that are generally easy to understand.  

To start, it’s helpful to think about language in two parts: The first is receptive language: Does your toddler seem to understand what you’re saying? This part generally develops first. If he or she doesn’t seem to understand what you’re saying, your child’s even less likely to be able to start using words — expressive language. Frequent ear infections are a big culprit for this situation.

Two-year-olds should also be at the point of putting two words together to start forming sentences. If your child is using the right number of words and is starting to put them together, but the words aren’t very clear, he or she may have other barriers to good language development.

As always, remember that different children develop at different rates. Girls are a little faster in language development on average than boys. If a child is born very prematurely, this can also affect the age of language. Please talk to your pediatrician about these issues if you have additional questions. 

Dr. Peter Dehnel is a board-certified pediatrician and medical director with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. Send questions to This column is intended to provide general information only and not medical advice. Contact your health care provider with questions about your child.