What can you do to help expand your child's vocabulary? From the time they're a toddler and onward through their pre-teen years, you want them to learn lots of new words. So how can you help them to learn? Here are some ways to expand your child's vocabulary …
1. Read to Them
One of the best ways to expand your child's vocabulary is to read to them a lot from an early age. Don't save books for a bedtime story; read with them during the day as well. And encourage them to read by themselves as soon as they're old enough. That's how I picked up most of my extensive vocabulary. My family used to joke that I talked like I'd swallowed a dictionary!
2. Simple Definitions
Another good way to introduce new words is to define them. But use a simple definition so that it makes sense to your child; using complicated definitions will just confuse them and mean they don't learn the word. Place the word in context. 'Look, here's the bus driver. Let's say hello to the bus driver.'
Children learn a word after they have heard it several times (except the words you don't want them to know, which they learn straight away!). So use new words frequently, to give them a chance to hear it repeatedly. 'Let's put the dress away in the wardrobe. Which dress do you prefer? Do you like the red dress or the yellow dress more?'
You can also help your child to learn words by grouping them in a theme. This helps them remember words because they can draw a logical connection between the words. Random words may be harder to remember. So, for example, you can teach them about the beach and the seaside thus: 'There's lots of sand on the beach. We go to the beach when it's sunny. You can play in the sea.'
A child is the center of his own world, so relating new words to him can help him learn. 'Shall we play with your cars? Where's your red car? The red car is bigger than the green car.' You can also relate words to yourself. 'Mommy works in the bank. You keep your money in the bank. I count money at work. You use money to go shopping. I'm going to pay for the shopping.'
6. Acting out
Young children can also benefit from seeing words acted out. 'Shall we jump? Can you jump higher than me? Today we're going to walk to the shops. Hold Mommy's hand while we're walking.' This allows them to relate a word to an action, and that will therefore make sense to them because they are seeing it there and then.
Children don't always get the pronunciation right (even adults struggle to say some words correctly!). But if they get it wrong, don't tell them so. Instead, repeat the word in a sentence, so that they can hear the correct pronunciation. 'Yes, we're going to see the elephants. Do you like elephants? Are they your favorite animal? What color are elephants?'
Try these tips, and your child will soon have an impressive vocabulary! It's much the same principle as learning a foreign language; you rarely learn words straight away, but rely on repetition and context to memorise them. Has your child ever embarrassed you by using the wrong word?