Incorporating Core Vocabulary Words into Easy Play Activities

What are core vocabulary words?

Core vocabulary words are high frequency words that are commonly used throughout our everyday lives. They are often some of the first words we teach children who are learning early language and children who use AAC devices. These words can be used for different functions, such as requesting ("more," "want," "help"), commenting ("big," "little," "up," "down"), and protesting ("stop," "all done," "no more").

Ideas for introducing and practicing core vocabulary words:

-Play with a flashlight! Turn the lights off and see what your child can find with the flashlight or make finger shadows on the wall. Core vocabulary words that can be targeted through this activity include: "on," "off," "up," "down," "want," and "help." If your child is not able to turn the flashlight on or off independently, you can create opportunities to practice asking for help or asking to turn it on or turn it off. You can also practice phrases such as “Look here,” “Light on,” “I see…” while the light is shining on an object, or “My turn.”

-Blow bubbles together! Bubbles are a highly engaging and motivating activity for many children. Some of the core vocabulary words that can be targeted with bubbles include: "go," "stop," "up," "down," "on," "more," "big," and "little." Your child also may enjoy practicing phrases such as “Go up,” “Go down,” “Pop bubble,” and “More bubbles.”

-Drive toy cars or trucks! You and the child can each have a car and race each other or build tracks or obstacles for the cars to go over or under, such as tunnels or bridges. Core vocabulary words that can be targeted through this activity include: "go," "stop," "help," "more," "up," and "under." You can practice emphasizing phrases such as “Go fast,” “Go slow,” “Go, car, go,” “More cars,” and “My car.”


-Rather than asking a child to say these words or phrases, start by modeling them and repeating the target word or phrase throughout the activity. For example, you might say “More bubbles” every time before you blow the bubbles and then saying “Pop bubble” every time the child tries to pop a bubble.

-These words can be used with a variety of activities! If your child is interested in blocks, Play-Doh, or farm animals, you can use similar strategies and words to increase their vocabulary. The more a child enjoys the activity, the more engaged they will be in the words you are modeling!

-Rosemary O'Brien, M.S., CF-SLP


Marden, J., & Hartmann, A. (n.d.). The AssistiveWare Core Word Classroom. AssistiveWare. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from