A robust vocabulary is the key for a child to succeed in school and beyond. It is a critical component that will enhance the ability of your child to effectively communicate their ideas and thoughts and interact with the world around. As a parent, if you would like to foster your child’s reading ability, communication skill and also aid in his listening and comprehension abilities, then you need to make sure that a rich vocabulary is developed for your child.
With simple at-home techniques and activities, you can do this task easy for your child. I too am a mother of two kids and when it came to their vocabulary building, I often overlooked the easy ways by pushing them aside. I had a strong misconception that only courses and communicative classes could help my child to have a fine stock of words. I was wrong! These simple but effective steps helped my child, not only in his scholastic achievements, but also in describing feeling, understanding ideas and expressing intentions.
- Avoid infantile words and use grown-up words instead:
What most people do not consider a good option to be is to use “big” words in daily, normal conversation with their children. The sole purpose of the parents is to make their sentences easy to understand for their kids. But by doing this, you are actually making your child afraid of or unaccustomed to listening to critical and difficult words.
Do not dumb-down the way you speak to the child. He is immature, but not dull. It is in this age that you must instil the willingness to learn, in them. Try and incorporate bigger words into the conversation that your child would not easily understand — words that you use while speaking with adults. Make sure you encourage your child to ask you back for clarifications. Be ready to pause and explain the meaning of this new word.
- Create a language rich environment:
Daily conversation with your child is greatly enhanced, if you create a language rich environment. This can be a visit to the zoo, a fun-picture book or story book reading session, doing craft together with your child or even going for a trip somewhere. The more memorable you make the environment for your child, the better the experience will be.
- Speak frequently and let them speak:
As your child is a toddler or a little baby, he or she is constantly grasping everything that they listen. At this stage, it is your task to speak frequently with them, so that new words fall into their ears. I try and narrate everything I do, to my children. It can be something as easy as “I am making milkshake for you” or “Daddy is taking a bath”. And, apart from these regular sentences, I often read out stories to them. This does two tasks simultaneously — build vocabulary and enhance imagination.
With learning these new words, they are actually burgeoning their vocabulary. As they grow old, you need to let them speak. When it comes to their turn to speak, you can ask them to tell a story. Create a plot to help them channelize their imagination. When my children create stories, I force in new words into their plots by questioning. Suppose, they are telling a story about the stars and the sky, I would ask, “How did you find the new star? Did you have a telescope?” Thus, he would know what telescope is and what it does.
- Create a vocabulary brainstorming session:
This is indeed very interesting for your kids. You may even do this with your child’s friends. When they come home to play together, or if his cousins visit him, rather than letting them to watch the TV, engage them into an interesting game. This would be a game of identifying objects. Describe certain features and properties of a new thing that would be of interest to your child and ask him to identify it. Push descriptive words and adjectives in this opportunity.
As you describe new adjectives, you must also ask him or her to relate objects, animals, places and things to those words. This session helps a lot in building concepts. In these sessions, it is always useful to pick up topics that your child loves. If he is fond of cars or if she is fond of flowers, you can relate them. Relate real-life events like, “Remember, when our car broke, we went to the garage?” “Remember, we saw a white flower in Uncle Sam’s yard? That was Daisy.”
- Play a word-game:
Everyone has heard of scrabble and most people have this game at home. But scrabble isn’t the only game; there are many others like Hangman, Boggle and Apples to Apples etc. Make out time and sit with your child play these games. Not only will they get an opportunity to remember what they have learnt, but they will also learn new words from you.
With so much advancement in the world of technology, several apps have been designed for smartphones that can help you in increasing stock of words. Make your waiting session in store queues or travelling time in a car, a useful learning time for your child.
- Learn in front of your child:
What you do, is mimicked by your child. Hence, if you read aloud, your child would learn that too. Read something that would be of interest to your child, even if he is not directly addressed. Children often surprise you by catching words that you were using at different contexts and conversations that they were not part of.
When you read, tell your child that there are words that you do not know. Show them how you consult a dictionary to find the meaning. At a tender age, it can be tough to consult a dictionary. But as you build the habit and tell the child that a dictionary is always there to help you, they will have an encouragement for learning new words.
- Touch, feel and express — relate to the senses:
Kids always remember those things more that have related to their senses. In that case, situational learning is very useful. When they are having a bubble bath, you can relate to things that are associated with the bathroom. When they fall down and they have hurt themselves, teach them about the abstract nouns that are associated with feelings, senses, pain etc. It is a must that you teach them the different words relating to senses and feelings that are not concrete, but abstract. This is done best in particular situations.
- Act out:
Being a little dramatic always works for the kids. A cold-hearted expression and dull facial expression is a huge obstacle in the way of learning for your child. Children remember those things more, that they can relate to and that create a striking impression in their minds. When you are teaching new words, act them out and make gestures with hands, face and entire body. Children grasp these gestures better than simple verbal knowledge.
- Help the child remember new words:
One of the most important aspects of learning new words is to remember old ones. It is quite helpful that you try a “vocabulary flashcard box” to keep the difficult words written on flashcards. Pick any of them at random and ask your child to explain its meaning in his own words. As your child grows, you can ask him to use the word in his own sentence, so that you can help him learn its derivatives and enhance his word application abilities. To make it more interesting, ask your child to draw something that will match that word.
- Don’t over-do:
When helping your child to learn new words, try not to teach him or her too many new words at a time. It is better to stick to a few words and explain them in details and apply them in different sentences. Over-doing this will lead to confusion and make it too monotonous for the child.
Always keep in mind that the purpose is to teach them new words, not bombard them with heavy vocab. You do not want to sound gibberish to them. Rather, focus on repeating the words, their meanings, spellings and applications. The more you repeat, the more they will remember. You can sit with your child to enjoy spelling and vocal contests on TV.
It is very normal for them to misunderstand the pronunciation. Hence, you must be careful with how you pronounce a word. If they make mistakes, correct them and help them rectify their faults with care. Remember that it is not a contest that they are taking a part in. Make it lively and a fun event for them to learn. But if they can’t, do not panic; because their vocabulary is not a certification for you as a good parent. But, when they read and comprehend something one their own, you will glad that you helped!