Building your child’s vocabulary – Why is it so important anyway?

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Between the ages of two and five, children learn at an extraordinary pace, understanding and remembering words they may have heard only once or twice.

Strong spoken vocabulary is linked to high levels of reading comprehension and is necessary for developing skills like understanding and applying information heard. Having a strong vocabulary also helps a child to create information successfully.

So how can you encourage the growth of your child’s vocabulary?

Use the library; it is a great way to add variety to your book list, and gives you a wide range of topics to choose from. You are sure to find something motivating for your child. Bring your child with you and make it a regular part of your routine.

  •  Speak to your child using a variety of words

Be mindful of your own vocabulary, rather than just using the word “big” to describe something, add other words with the same meaning such as “huge”, “gigantic” or “enormous”.

  • Be specific and descriptive

The more words your child hears on a daily basis, the more likely they are to then learn, absorb and use these words. So rather than asking your child to “pick up the teddy bear”, you might say “pick up the teddy bear with the blue pants and striped shirt”. In return you want your child to use specific words, so if they ask for their car, ask, “Which car? The large blue car; or tiny spotted car?”

  • Use everyday life opportunities to reinforce words and the alphabet

There are so many opportunities in your daily routines to build vocabulary. Meal times, bath time, getting dressed, brushing teeth, driving somewhere etc. Talk to your child about what is happening at the time. E.g. During bath time; “Pouring water into the big, blue cup; pouring, pouring, pouring”.  Remember to be specific and descriptive!

To extend this further for your preschool aged child, encourage them to start recognising letters and the sounds they make. You may start with the letters in your child’s name, and focus on one letter at a time. Search for that letter on road signs, shopping lists, catalogues… the list is endless!

  • Make label cards for items around the house

You may do this one room at a time, and label some of the more simple words, such as “bed” and “rug” to start with. Remember to talk about the letters within that word and the sounds they make. E.g. “bed… I can see the letter ‘b’; it makes a ‘b’ sound…                ‘b’ for bed!”

  • Sort and categorise common household items

This will help organise the information in your child’s brain, as they get the chance to see what they are hearing. The idea is that your child can describe and sort items in various ways. E.g. if you have socks, shoes, coloured pencils, and cutlery; you can sort these into categories (groups) such as colour, texture and size.

Last but not least, enjoy being amazed by your child’s wonderful way with words!



This article was published in Shire’s Children magazine; March issue 2015 –