Updated: May 11
It may seem simple, but increasing a child’s vocabulary is key to early literacy and language development. Children, even at the earliest ages, are listening to you, even when they don’t know what you are saying. They are hearing tones and inflections that will stick with them for EVER!!
All kids have interests no matter what their age is. Some kids learn motor skills first, others are more focused on verbal skills. Many times parents get worried when their child isn’t talking as fast or as well as other children. Sometimes there is an underlying condition, but many times their child is just more interested in movement or using motor skills than verbal skills. Just because they don’t talk as much as other kids doesn’t mean they are behind.
One thing you can do to increase a child’s vocabulary and speech is to focus on the things that your child is interested in. Use vocabulary words that relate to their interests. If you have a “mover” then use action words while you are being active! If your child is more interested in fine motor skills (playing with buttons, building blocks, or stacking) talk to them while they are playing, talking about these types of activities.
For kids who are already talking all the time, try telling stories from books or movies or making up stories. Encouraging imagination is a great way to increase your child’s vocabulary as they will need help coming up with the right words as they are making up new characters, worlds, or plots.
Listening is a key to learning vocabulary. Kids use the words you use. If you want your kids to have a larger vocabulary start with your own vocabulary first. A great way to do this is to have a ‘word of the day’, and compete with your children to see who can use the word the most each day.
Increasing a child’s vocabulary can be difficult for younger kids. For younger children, try to explain what you do while they watch you. Talk to them while you are cooking, shopping, or even cleaning up the house. They will quickly pick up the words you use everyday.
When talking with your kids, take the time to pause and explain what words mean if they don’t already know. Many times I have to stop and explain what I’m saying to my own kids, and it always helps them understand WHY I don’t let them do something, or why I want them to clean something up.
Ways You Can Incorporate New Vocabulary Everyday
Every day at dinner you can sit with your kids and share with the family one high point and one low point of your day. Start with the parents and then allow your kids to share. It is best to go first so the children know what is expected for the activity. It also allows your little ones to use similar words you and your spouse did.
I Spy in the Car
Talk when you are in the car! Point out what you are seeing as you drive and talk about what the thing is and why its there. My kids also like to hear about why or when it was invented and how it may have changed.
Going to the grocery story? It is really easy to tell your kids to “stop talking” or “put that down” at the grocery story, but if you have some extra time allow them to pick something off the shelf that is new or strange to them and then talk about what it is and why it is used (then put it back because you probably don’t need it).
You can also let your kids find the item you are looking for. This way you have extra “helpers” and may even save some time. By letting them look for items on the shelf they are learning these words, and when they get the wrong thing, you can explain what they found and how it is different.
Increasing your child’s vocabulary will be easy with these fun activities, and never forget the power of books!