In order to develop a child’s vocabulary, it is essential to pair word-building with word-using. As parents and as your children’s first and most influential teacher, it is vital to be proactive in the quest to help children develop strong vocabularies early on in life. Vocabulary is the gateway to both communication and success.
Here are 10 tips to help you develop your child’s vocabulary on a daily basis —
1 Use grown-up words in normal conversation. First things first, nix the baby talk. While it may seem like something cute to do, baby talk does nothing for your child’s vocabulary. Nancy Niemi, Ph.D., of the University of New Haven says, “Young children understand so much more than they can initially repeat. So don’t talk down to them.” Even if your child is not repeating and using the same words, your grown-up conversation is developing his or her vocabulary.
2 Converse regularly. Talk to your child on a regular basis. In our modern world, it’s easy to let technology do the entertaining. However, children can learn and absorb a lot of information through conversation. Challenge yourself to strike up more conversations with your child.
3 Play word games. Make games a part of your family tradition. Incorporate word games like Scrabble, Spin and Spell, Spelling Puzzles, or others into your family nights. Allow yourself to be creative, think outside of the box, and make up your own games to play with your children.
4 Pay more attention to the words your children are using. As your children grow, they will innately become more curious. When they ask what a word means, strive to give a correct definition and pronunciation of the word. For example, if they ask what the word “massive” means, do not settle for the quick definition. Take time to explain how and when they can use the word “massive,” correctly, in a sentence.
5 Correct mistakes with care. It’s natural for kids to mispronounce and misuse words as they are developing their vocabularies. Pay attention to how your child is pronouncing words and using them. If and when you notice a mistake, take time to correct him/her with care. The next time your child uses the word correctly, be sure to applaud him/her— children love feeling as if they have accomplished something. It will encourage your child to continue to develop his/her vocabulary.
6 See it, say it, write it. One of the most effective ways for your child to expand his/her vocabulary is to see it, say it, and write it. If your child comes across a new word in conversation or in reading, explain what the words means. Then, have your child repeat the word back to you and encourage him/her to use it in a sentence. Finally, solidify the learning process by having your child write the word down, perhaps in a letter to grandma or on a chart of New Words hanging on the refrigerator.
7 Read daily. Encourage your child to read on a regular basis. The more a child reads, particularly nonfiction, the more opportunities he/she will have to expand his/her vocabulary. And don’t overlook the fact that you’re your child’s first teacher. If you read, and your child sees you reading, your child will be inclined to read, too.
8 Make it an adventure. Show your child that learning can be fun and adventurous. Take your child on a day trip to the zoo, museum, or art gallery, exposing him or her to new ideas and words as you talk together about what you see. Or, allow learning adventures to happen in your daily routine by taking walks, going to the post office, or the grocery store together in order to learn new words. The key is to strike up intentional conversation during these learning excursions.
9 Give them the play-by-play. Live your life out loud with your child by narrating your actions. Nancy Niemi, Ph.D., states that children “want to be connected to their parents, and they’re wired to learn phrases and words related to what their parents are doing. It gives them a whole new vocabulary that they wouldn’t ordinarily be exposed to.” So when you’re grocery shopping say out loud, “Now we need to shop for vegetables,” and continue the conversation while shopping for vegetables, describing the merits and nutritional qualities of every vegetable you and your child encounter.
10 Let them tell the story. Instead of reading a story at night, give your children the opportunity to use their imaginations and exercise their vocabularies by telling a story. You can help them by giving them a setting and a problem their character needs to overcome. For instance, the setting can be on a submarine in the middle of the ocean and the character is a scuba diver looking for hidden treasure.
While your child is telling the story, be sure to ask questions. For instance, if your child says, “The scuba diver passed a really big fish,” respond by asking, “What kind of fish was it?” Asking questions will force your child to articulate his/her ideas better and in turn, expand his/her vocabulary.
How will you incorporate these ideas into your daily routine with your child? Or what other methods have you experimented with in order to help develop your child’s vocabulary?
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