Children need to talk in order to develop vocabulary and language. Parents can help their child’s language development by providing opportunities to increase both the quality and quantity of language. Children need opportunities to talk, use vocabulary words, and respond to adults’ questions.
9 Strategies to Increase Vocabulary Development
- Say it, Say it and Say it again– Once is not enough! If you want your child to know the new word sleet, they have to see it out their window (or in books) and hear the term multiple times to remember that sleet is frozen rain. Vocabulary increases with repeated opportunities to hear and use the word in meaningful contexts.
- Define new words with child-friendly definitions to expand vocabulary.
- Connections to experience – Children need varied, ﬁrst-hand experiences with the world in order to broaden the scope of the words and language that they use. Fieldtrips and conversations help to broaden a child’s spoken or receptive vocabulary which also helps their reading ability.
- Reading with your child – When you read aloud to your child, you are not only helping to prepare her to learn to read, you are also exposing her to rich language she otherwise might not hear. Reading will help her become familiar with new words and a different language structure, as the form and feel of written language is quite different from spoken language.
- Pretend Play – Acting out stories and role-playing are open-ended opportunities to use and learn new language.
- Illustrate drawings – Ask your child what they have drawn and expand their language when you repeat what they have said or ask questions about their drawing.
- Plan language activities – PLAN times you can plan “fancy language”. On a car ride or just getting dressed in the morning, describe things you see along the way. In other words, talk to yourself out loud for your audience of one. You’ll be surprised how quickly they will learn new words. While talking aloud stop and ask your child some open- ended questions or repeat some of the words that you say.
- Fancy up your talk– Add “adult words” to your everyday conversations. Replace car with automobile, or bike with bicycle. Use them interchangeably and explain to your child that the “adult word” can also be used.
- Conversations – It’s important to have as many conversations as possible with your child during the day. Adults need to think of conversations as learning opportunities and include open-ended questions rather than simple yes/no responses. If you “think aloud” or talk with your child about what you are doing and why, you will be inviting her into some wonderful language-building chats.
- Ask for clarification on words- What do you think “sleet” feels like?
- Suggest synonyms for some of their words- Can you think of another word for the word “cold”.
- Ask what do you think would happen if _____?
- Adult responses should invite more conversation. I like that idea a lot. I wonder if…..
The more words a child hears, the more words he will learn and use. Children who acquire a substantial vocabulary are often able to think more deeply, express themselves better, and learn new things more quickly. Even a few minutes a day of “fancy talk” can help your child’s language.