Discover effective strategies to cultivate a strong vocabulary in children. From labeling the world around them to playing word games, unlock the power of words for lifelong learning.
by Sarah Perowne
Feature Photo by Nothing Ahead on Pexels.com
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I have always been passionate about languages and giving children the tools to cultivate a strong vocabulary from a young age. A rich vocabulary is hugely important, helping kids express their thoughts and feelings – laying the groundwork for academic success and a lifelong love for learning.
From everyday conversations to planning fun activities, there are so many ways you can cultivate a strong vocabulary in your child.
All the how-tos shared in this post are adaptable enough for your child’s interests and needs – so you can use them as they are or to inspire your own activities.
Label and Describe The World Around Them
The world around us is one of our greatest educators. In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard young children being described as sponges. Their brains observe and take information from things and people around them as soon as they are born. It’s all in the neurons! You can nurture a strong vocabulary by capitalizing on this innate skill. Try labeling things around you aloud on your daily walks and describe the things you see using rich language rather than “baby talk.” At the beginning, while you label and describe, ensure that kids have a tangible object or image to refer to, as it will help give them context to the vocabulary.
As you explore the world together and they grow in confidence, you’ll notice that they will start using these words and trying them out for themselves. Even if they get it wrong, you can redirect them kindly by using the correct vocabulary aloud.
Play Puzzles & Other Word Games
Play is hugely important. Because playing is fun and motivating, you can use games and puzzles to educate. Word games like crossword puzzles, Junior Scrabble, and Hangman can help children learn vocabulary and absorb new words while having fun. Other ideas are word association games where you have to find common words. You never know; you might have a budding crossword solver on your hands or maybe a soon-to-be poet!
Read Aloud Regularly
Reading aloud and listening to others narrating can greatly benefit your child’s vocabulary skills. When they read aloud, they learn how language is used, how words are pronounced, and about intonation, all hugely important for cultivating a stronger vocabulary. You can start slowly by first showing them how to read aloud. Choose books with a rich vocabulary inside, ideally with a mixture of words they know and ones that may be a little more challenging. For kids below 3, you can choose books with images and no words, like the No Word Books, which use beautiful images of everyday life. Depending on your child’s interests, you can try books with rhymes, interesting storie4s, or even comics for older kids. As you read, ask lots of questions using the target vocabulary; for example, if the word is “scrumptious,” you could ask them why they think the …… looks scrumptious or if they have ever eaten anything scrumptious.
Figure Out Their Interests
Speaking of interests, nothing is more motivating than something you like. If your child is reluctant to improve their vocabulary or struggling with speech and language, figure out what they enjoy and try to use these interests to motivate them. For example, if your child is passionate about outer space, you could plan a space-related project like creating a Space dictionary or spend time outside stargazing where you point out and name the constellations, stars, and planets. If cooking is more their thing, spend some time in the kitchen following recipes and learning new food-related vocabulary. Use interesting words and the correct grammatical structures throughout these activities, as this will help strengthen your child’s vocabulary.
Take Your Learning Outside
Learning can take place outside the confinements of the four home or classroom walls. So, take your learning outside! This could mean taking a hike and discovering the animal habitats around you or discussing the life cycles of different plants. The richness of the outdoors means the possibility to learn new vocabulary is endless. Equally, spend an afternoon outside and listen to how others speak and the words they say. The more your child is exposed to different languages and rich vocabulary, the better the glossary they naturally refer back to will be.
Use Technology to Cultivate A Strong Vocabulary In Your Child
While many parents are rightfully concerned about how much time kids spend online, technology can be hugely beneficial for cultivating a strong vocab in your child. There are tons of fantastic resources and apps out there that are educational and fun! Learning about sight words with fun digital classroom activities can help young kids improve their vocabularies or focus on important beginning sounds like U-words for kids with flashcards.
Repeat New Words Often
Once your child has learned a new word, repeat it often in context. For example, if you´ve been learning about adverbs, why not spend time acting out, singing quietly, crawling slowly, or speaking furiously? Kids will love this, and it’s a hands-on way for them to practice using their newly acquired vocabulary.
Embrace Play To Cultivate A Strong Vocabulary In Your Child
The most important thing about cultivating a strong vocabulary is to embrace playfulness with motivating games and activities. If your child is having fun, they will be more engaged and ultimately learn more. A strong vocabulary offers children the opportunity to explore social interactions and integrate themselves into society, all skills they will keep and treasure forever.