Helping Your Children Build Their Vocabulary

Why is it important that your kids build their vocabulary?

A strong vocabulary in your child’s younger years is a good indication of how they’ll perform in school and as they get older.  They need a large vocabulary to understand the material they’ll encounter as they learn and grow.  It also helps your child to put into words what they’re feeling and thinking.  It can be challenging for young kids to verbalize their emotions. Talking about feelings and having a large vocabulary can give them the words they need.  

How can you help your kids build their vocabulary?

The majority of what your child learns in their early years comes from you as a parent.  This means that you play a significant role in how large their vocabulary is going to be.  Read on to learn the top 10 things you can do as a parent to help your kids build their vocabulary.

1. Have conversations

Having conversations with your kids is a great way to help them build their vocabulary.  It gives you the chance to introduce new words to them as you talk about their day.  Remember that the conversation must be two-sided.  You want to allow your child room to speak and ask questions; you don’t want to be just lecturing at them.  Learning new words in a conversation is a relaxed way of increasing your kid’s vocabulary. 

2. Help them visualize the word’s meaning

When your kids come across a word they don’t know, you can help them visualize its meaning.  You can do this by drawing a picture of the unfamiliar word or what it represents.  If it’s an emotion, you can use your face to show them how that emotion feels.  You could also use synonyms for the word or use it in a sentence. Take the word “joyful” as an example. You could show them what joyful looks like, explain that it’s similar to happy and use it in a sentence such as “Playing with my toys is a joyful experience for me.”

3. Get your kids curious about new words

If your child encounters a new word, you should encourage them to look for contextual signs of what the word could mean.  These could be found in the accompanying pictures or found in the rest of the sentence.  Encourage them to look up new words if they’re struggling to find contextual meaning. We have this elementary dictionary and use it all the time.

4. Don’t dumb down your communication with them

Just because a child is young doesn’t mean they can’t understand and learn big words.  If they come across a new word, all it means is that they haven’t had to opportunity to learn that word yet.  It does not mean they’re incapable of learning.  Using new words in your communication with them can help expose your children to new words which will help them build their vocabulary.

5. Encourage reading

Reading can really help your kids build their vocabulary.  If your child struggles with reading, I recommend looking at my 10 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Reading Confidence post.  It covers some easy steps you can take to get your child excited about reading!  If your kid already loves to read, you can help them build their vocabulary by encouraging difficult books.  These will contain words they’ve most likely not come across before.  Expanding their reading beyond books is another way to expose them to unfamiliar words.

6. Take it slow

It’s easy for young kids to get overwhelmed if they’re exposed to too much too fast.  They don’t have to sit down and memorize the dictionary in one day.  It’s okay to take it slow and teach them one or two new words at a time.  This way, they get the time and space they need to truly understand the meaning of the new word instead of merely memorizing them with no idea how they’re supposed to be used. 

7. Turn learning new words into a game

Everything is more fun when it’s incorporated into a game.  Thankfully, there are plenty of games that will help your child learn new words.  Scrabble, Bananagrams, Boggle or Hangman are all easy and fun games that allow you to teach your kids new words.  

8. Create a space where they can post new words they’ve learned. 

This can be ass simple or as complex as you’d like.  It could be a journal they write new words in or space on their wall to post words they’ve learned.  You could have them add context to make it more fun, like drawing pictures of what the word represents.  This will give them a visual representation of the words they’ve learned.  In addition, seeing their progress in black and white will provide them with a sense of pride, boosting their desire to continue learning.

9. Introduce a new word to them every day.  

You can make it a game for your children to come to you with one new word they encounter every day that they’ve tried to find the meaning of.  This will get them actively looking for new words and embracing the challenge instead of running from it.  You could also switch this concept and bring a new word to them.

10. Embrace synonyms

Synonyms are a great way of bringing context and understanding to new words.  You can do this by showing them how to use a thesaurus.  Alternatively, you could create a word bank filled with words that are similar or relate to one another.  It will help provide context so that they understand the meaning of the new word and how it relates to words they already know

The more new words they’re exposed to, the larger their vocabulary will be so don’t shy away from the challenge.

You May Also Like