A child’s vocabulary is the single biggest contributor to their performance at school in all subjects — in fact, by the age of nine, those who know more words are better at reading and writing. Sadly, however, an Oxford Press study of 1300 teachers revealed undeveloped vocabularies in the majority of children of all ages, leading to lower self-esteem, negative behavior and difficulty making friends.
Thankfully, there are lots of things parents can do to help their children increase their vocabulary. If you want to help your child build their vocabulary, then keep reading below. We’ve created a list of some fun ways to help them close the word gap.
1. Play Word Games
One of the best and most enjoyable ways to help your children increase their vocabulary is to play word games with them. There are many fantastic word games for a variety of ages, including:
2-6 years old: Briarpatch First 100 Words Matching Card Game
5+ years: Scrabble Jr.
8+ years: Boggle
9-10 years: Classwords: The Vocabulary Game
Toys with links to STEAM such as building blocks, marble runs and puzzles allow younger children to discuss causes and consequences as they make predictions and provide explanations. Alternatively, simple games where kids need to unscramble words will stimulate kids’ language skills, while online word games like Wordle can help older kids.
2. Encourage Your Child to Read
Even newborns benefit from the experience of hearing stories. To encourage a love for reading and, as a result, boosting their vocabulary (and imagination!), be sure to read out loud, every day. Any book. You can read anything to a newborn: a cookbook, a dystopian novel, a parenting manual. The content doesn’t matter. What does matter is the sound of your voice, the cadence of the text and the words themselves. Research has shown that the number of words an infant is exposed to has a direct impact on language development and literacy. But here’s the catch: The language has to be live, in person and directed at the child. Turning on a television, or even an audiobook, doesn’t count.
Reading books can be a great way for kids to pick up new vocabulary, see grammar in action and develop their understanding of a language.Evidence suggests that reading aloud to your child is one of the best ways to boost their vocabulary — potentially up to a million words! This is true even if your child is a competent reader, as it helps them access trickier texts they may not be able to understand or read on their own. Being read to is an enormous comfort and part of your bond, and you don’t want to convey to your child that becoming an independent reader jeopardizes that together time. Continue reading aloud picture book favorites — and some more-sophisticated books they can’t read on their own yet, like Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” or Kate DiCamillo’s “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.” This exposes them to more complex words and it gives you the opportunity to start a conversation with your child.
Reading is not only a way for them to escape the everyday world, but it can also be educational. Thanks to this, reading is a wonderful way for children to learn new vocabulary.
3. Substitute Synonyms
Another fantastic way to introduce your child to more words is to use them yourself. You can do this by becoming a walking and talking thesaurus. You simply need to substitute the words they use with different synonyms. For example, if your child tells you they’re hot, you could reply with, oh, you’re boiling, are you?
4. Practice Rhymes
If you have a young child, then a terrific way to build their vocabulary is to practice nursery rhymes with them. Rhyming is not only fun, but it’s also a great way to get your child to think about how each of the words in the rhyme relates to another.
If your child is older and no longer enjoys nursery rhymes, consider sharing poems with them instead. Like rhymes, they are an excellent way for your child to learn new words.
5. Socialize With Others
Children learn more from their peers than they do the adults in their lives. Thanks to this, it’s essential that you allow your child to socialize with other children. So, why not arrange a play date with their friends or visit the local park and make some new friends?
6. Visit the Library
Look no further than your local library if you’re looking for a resourceful place to build your child’s vocabulary. Libraries aren’t just a place to read books. Many libraries also offer fun and engaging events for children, which will expose them to a variety of new words. Experts say there is a strong link between library use and literacy-building skills in children.