6 Vocabulary Boosting Games For Babies


T loves words at the moment.  Ever since he has learned to point, his little world has really opened up and, although he isn’t speaking yet, he is finally able to communicate.  He points at things he recognises, at things he wants to know the name of and at things he wants to do.

As his vocabulary has grown, we’ve been able to have so much more fun with books and other reading games because we can ask him to find things.

In particular, I would like to use this blog as a forum to sing the praises of picture books.  They are AMAZING teaching tools, and I don’t know what I would have done without them! T has learned the names of SO many things through looking at picture books – things beyond his immediate experience, such as a frog, a mountain or a rhinoceros.

Of course, babies are picking up vocabulary ALL the time, when we speak to them and to people around them.  But it’s nice to play some games that aim to teach vocabulary because it’s FUN.

Here are five games we are playing at the moment, that are helping T to learn words. These games focus on vocabulary extension, but also develop skills in:

  • reading (scanning for information)
  • listening (for an instruction and carrying it out)
  • communication (I would say speaking skills but T is not speaking yet – what I mean by this is pointing to things he wants to know the name of)
  • concentration
  • memory

1.  Peg Puzzle Fetch

pegpuzzle pegpuzzle2

This is the only game on the list that doesn’t involve a book, so I thought I’d start with it.  Most of us have at least one peg puzzle lying around.  We actually inherited ours from a two-year old cousin and this game originated because I wanted to put it to good use.  T enjoyed taking the pieces out, but, at first, it was too much of a challenge to actually fit them into their holes.  But, as time went out, he began to remember the names of the objects.  This coincided with that lovely baby stage where he just wanted to hand things to mummy and daddy all the time, so we started asking him to fetch them for us.

It just evolved from there really.

You will need: an animal or object peg puzzle

Preparation for the game

Introduce the peg puzzle to your baby.  As with any game, try to resist launching into it immediately, and give your baby a chance to just explore it and play with it, without any “rules”.

While she is playing with it, name the pieces for her as she touches them.  Do this for a few days, so that your baby is familiar with the pieces and at least one or two of their names.  Don’t expect her to know all (or, actually, any of them) – this is not important, as this is what you are aiming to teach her with this game.

How to play

  • Present the puzzle to her.  Ask her: Where’s the cat? Can you see the cat? If she gets it wrong, simply say: “That’s the dog.  Can you see the cat?
  • If she really doesn’t know after a few asks, find it for her and say: “here’s the cat!”.  Encourage her to take it out and praise her for doing so.  Talk about the cat with her.  (Can you see it’s whiskers?  What does a cat say?  Miaow! etc).
  • If she does know, get her to hand the cat to you and when she does, give her a big clap, smiles and lots of praise, saying “well done, you found the cat!  Good girl!”
  • Repeat with the other pieces!  As time goes on, introduce new objects and you will find that she remembers more each time you play!

Extensions for older/more experienced babies:

  • Once she has got the hang of this, take all the pieces out and just have her put them back into the right holes.  First, you can do this by pointing at the place they belong.  Eventually, you can stop pointing so she just has to listen to your instruction and then look to find the right hole.
  • For really active babies or babies that are just getting into crawling or walking, put a bit of distance between you and make it into an a more physical game!  T LOVES crawling across the room to fetch a puzzle piece for me.  This also improves his short term memory, as he has to keep the instruction in mind and focus on the task until he reaches the puzzle.

2. Fiction and Non-fiction Match


You will need:

  • a photographic book such as First 100 Animals
  • a story book with animals in, such as ‘Dear Zoo’ or ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you hear?’ or some toy animals

It doesn’t have to be animals, all you are doing is matching an object or a picture of something to a photo. Animals are just easiest because they appear frequently in story or in photographic pictures.

Point to the representational picture of an elephant in the story book, or to a toy elephant and say (eg) “can you see the elephant?”.  Then hold up the photographic book and say “can you see the elephant here?  Where’s the elephant?” 

Extensions for older/more experienced babies: Play this game with other groups of objects to extend their vocabulary further.  For example, we play a variation with a truck book and his toy vehicle (see above photo).

3.  Flap Finder


You will need:

  • A book with flaps

What’s behind the hedge?  Can you find the little mouse? Where is the rabbit hiding? Sometimes, the best teaching is all in the questions.  Just ask these questions on each page of their favourite book, and you will be developing your baby’s ability to scan for information – an essential reading skill.  But, most importantly, your baby will just think it’s good fun!

T loves the challenge of having to find things and will pore over the pages eagerly for a good few minutes, looking for a little mouse or a bee.

Of course, you don’t need a book with flaps to play this game, you could just as easily play it around the house.  We play it in all the rooms, at bedtime, mealtimes, bath time, on the swings, pretty much everywhere!

I am a BIG fan of questions to get babies thinking, scanning for information, making connections and communicating.

4.  Body Part Match

Age range: around 10-18 month olds

Develops: listening skills, vocabulary, memory skills, concentration skills, scanning for information (reading), communication skills (pointing)

You will need: a book about animals

Sing head, shoulders, knees and toes  – for a nice warm-up to this game.  Point to your eyes, nose, mouth, and ears, then ask your baby to point to the pig’s/cow’s ears etc.

Variations: Do this in the mirror once a day after bath or in the morning, to consolidate what you have been learning

5.  Treasure Hunt

Age range: around 10-18 month olds

Develops: listening skills, vocabulary, memory skills, concentration skills, scanning for information (reading), communication skills (pointing)

You will need: some books with photographs of real objects in

This is a different version of the Flappy Finder game.  Just walk around the house with your book and your baby, finding things on the pages – ladybirds, spiders, toys, house-hold objects such as sofas and clocks.

6.  Animal Match

You will need:

  • some books with photographs of real objects in,
  • a collection of toys and objects that you know are in the books.

We tried this with:

a plastic cow


a soft toy duck:

duck1 duck2 duck3 duck4 duck5 duck6 duck7

a tiger puzzle


And a wooden owl ornament:

owl1 owl3 owl4

This is one of T’s favourite games – I think because it involves real objects that he can handle.  It would work well with slightly older or more experienced babies who enjoy making connections between things.

That’s it folks!  Have fun playing these games with your little beauties.  T really does adore these games and it’s good to know that every time we play them, he’s learning more words!

And for those of you who have been asking, I promise that I will soon be writing about Christmas!  I have been playing catch up as our internet service was on the blink, but I’m nearly there now…


One thought on “6 Vocabulary Boosting Games For Babies

  1. Pingback: Ten of the Best Educational Toys For One Year Olds | Play It Again Mummy

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