How to Develop Your Child's Vocabulary

May 03, 2019

How to Develop Your Child's Vocabulary

(Photo by Nicole De Khors from Burst)

Having an extensive vocabulary is part of being a good reader and writer. It helps readers to comprehend more complicated texts and helps writers construct more specific, interesting and compelling texts. So how can you help your child develop a stronger vocabulary?

The easiest way to increase your child’s vocabulary is to make sure they read as much as possible. When your child is younger and unable to read independently, you should read to them for at least 1/2 hour daily. When you come across a word that you don’t think they know, ask them what they think it means and explain it if necessary. Help them understand it’s definition by discussing how it relates to the story. Then try to use the new words in your daily conversations. The more they hear new vocabulary and the more they try to use it, the easier it will be to remember it.

Older children that are able to read independently should be encouraged to pay attention to new words when they read. Instead of skipping unfamiliar words, they can use a dictionary, use context clues to figure it out or ask an adult for help. They can also keep a list of any new vocabulary they encounter.  Since it is not uncommon for kids to ignore new vocabulary, it is a good idea for parents to check in with them every so often and ask them what they are reading. Read a few paragraphs of their book and ask questions about what is going on. You can ask them directly about the definition of any words that you think they may not know. Talking to them about what they are reading is also a good way to encourage their interest in and comprehension of a book.

A fun way to develop your child’s vocabulary is to have a “Word of the Week”.  Write the word and its definition on a card and place it in a prominent place like the refrigerator.  When you introduce the word, model how to use it in a sentence and then ask your child to use it in a different sentence. Throughout the week, see how many times each family member can use it in conversation.  

Another fun way to practice vocabulary is to play word games.  Games like Scrabble and Jumble are family games that will challenge and expand your child’s vocabulary.  You can also play Vocabulary Concentration. Write each vocabulary word on an index card and its matching definition on another. Then place them in a mixed-up order face down in an organized array.  Turn over two cards and if the word and definition match, you have made a match. If not, turn them back over and someone else takes a turn. Continue until the cards have been matched.

Expanding your child’s vocabulary is easy to do if you make an effort to ensure that they are reading every day. You can enhance the natural development of their vocabulary from reading if you play word games and provide ample opportunities to use new vocabulary in everyday conversation.  Make it fun and they won’t even realize they are learning!