What is a word? The answer to that question may differ depending on who you talk to. Basically a word is a group of sounds that communicates meaning. A word is considered to be part of a child’s vocabulary if it has been used in at least 3 different situations without prompting from an adult. For instance, your child says “eat” when requesting food, he says “eat” when telling you what the cat is doing, and he says “eat” when playing with toy food.
Some children who are still developing their sounds may only say part of a word like “dih” for the word “this.” This partial word or simplified word would still count as a word. You can also count animal or vehicle sounds if the child uses the animal or vehicle sound in place of the word like “moooo” in place of the word “cow.”
Here is an example vocabulary of a child with 5 words:
bah – ball
mmm – car
dada – daddy
no – no
For these words to count the child would have used each of these words on his own in at least 3 different situations.