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How to Help Increase Your Child’s Vocabulary


Believe it or not but increasing kids’ vocabulary often takes a backseat to other child development skills. However, your child’s ability to communicate is a life skill worth developing. Moreover, increasing their vocabulary helps express themselves properly. Likewise, with an increased vocabulary they can understand others better. Your children progress through a learning process that parents can take an active role.

Parents need to help their children gain a wider vocabulary. Moreover, they must do this in a manner that helps and empowers the child. Obviously expecting the child to memorize a page of the Oxford Dictionary a day is counterproductive. Rather, there are more reliable means to help increase your child’s vocabulary.


Tip #1: Vocabulary Development Starts With Talking With Your Child

This may appear peculiar as a parenting tip but parents often fail to understand its importance. And if they do, they often do this improperly. Language development is best fostered with constant use of the language. As such, talking to your child is one of the best ways to help improve vocabulary. So please talk to your child properly.

Important reminders in order to increase your child’s vocabulary:

  1. Skip the baby talk. I know it sounds adorable especially when babies respond with their own babbling. But it is wise to skip the baby talk and start using actual words.
  2. Use proper labels. As your child grows, they form labels for everything around them. This symbolic use of words is vital in the development of a wide vocabulary. It is therefore imperative for your child to use the proper labels for objects around them, their emotions, actions and practically everything.
  3. Proper usage of words. As the child widens his/her vocabulary it is essential they know how to use words appropriately. Words have synonyms. However, it is important that they know when to use a particular word for the situation.

Tip #2: Develop Vocabulary By Introducing New Words

An effective way to help increase your child’s vocabulary is to introduce new words. Of course you don’t just drop a hifalutin word out of nowhere. Chances are they’d pretend they did not hear you. More often than not, they’d probably think you are making up words. Instead, here are some tips on how you can introduce new words without receiving a blank stare from your child.

Use synonyms of familiar words.

Using synonyms allow a smoother transition to a new word. Instead of repeating one word, interchange them with their synonyms. Consequently, your child will be able to connect the familiar word and the new one.


Are you feeling sad to day? Tell me why you are feeling unhappy.

You look nervous. Are you feeling anxious because you will sing in front of your classmates?

Of course some synonyms are more appropriate for a particular situation. However, don’t be too strict on this. The critical part of the exercise is for your child to learn the new word and be comfortable in using it. Slowly introduce its proper usage by setting an example for your child.

Games using synonyms that you can try:

  • We take turns in saying a synonym of a particular word, the person who fails to say the right word loses. Agree on a consequence for the loser.
  • Word hunt – when we are outside we play Word Hunt. We take turns asking each other to find a particular word around us. We say “Find the word that means…” This is a great way to build vocabulary, improve word recognition and spelling. Plus, it kills time in a fun way.

Using synonyms is a fantastic way to build your child’s vocabulary. The more your child uses these new words the better they will become in expressing themselves. When my daughter was just 3, she approached her teacher at school and whispered that she will defecate. As a result, the teacher was surprised since ordinarily students use “go to the potty.” or “need to poop”.

In contrast, you can also introduce antonyms to your child. This will help widen your child’s vocabulary a little better.

Limit the new words

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Giving your child a myriad of words to practice is counterproductive. It is wise to just focus on a few at a time thus mastery is achieved. The amount will depend on various factors. So it is best to observe how receptive your child is to using new words. Try adding new ones when your child has gained confidence in using the previous words you’ve introduced.

Let your child ask about words

My daughter has the habit of asking us the meaning of unfamiliar words. This is a commendable behavior since she initiates the learning process. If in case your child does not ask about the words she reads, prompting is recommended. Ask your child if he/she knows the word. Ask to give synonyms or antonyms. Moreover, it is wise to help the child learn about the new words using context clues.


Tip #3: Use New Words Often to Develop the Child's Vocabulary

It is not enough that you introduce new words. In order to help increase your child’s vocabulary you need to use these words often. But instead of sounding like a talking dictionary, incorporate the use of the new words into your daily activities.

Tips on using new words

  • Everyone should help out in using the new words. Make sure that the whole household joins in on the task of using the words. This way, the child hears and uses them more often.
  • Pronounce the words properly. It is essential that the words are pronounced properly. This will help the child recognize words with similar sounds.
  • Create a word wall. A word wall is simply a space for your child to write the new words. It can be a petite whiteboard or even the refrigerator door. Just place the word wall where the child can easily discover it. More importantly, allow the child to help make it and help add new words on this special place. Younger kids may require pictures as well as the actual words.
  • Make the experience as concrete as possible. Use objects that you can find at home or in familiar places. You can show pictures or actual objects. You can even demonstrate to illustrated the words better. The key is to get all the senses of the child active whenever using the words. The more the child interacts with the words the better it is recalled. Make this a meaningful sensory experience for the child.

Tip #4: Let The Child Discover and Learn the Meaning of New Words

Your child can benefit from learning new words. This is why your child’s experiences must have numerous moments where discovering words is an integral part. But it has to be fun. Your child’s attitude towards vocabulary is an important factor. You must learn how to help your child enjoy reading in order to help them discover new words.

Tips in discovering new words:

  • Read, read and read some more. Reading is an important skill. Furthermore, this skill must morph into a habit early on in life. Constant reading exposes us to unfamiliar words and thus whets our appetite to learn more about them.
  • Let your child write. Writing allows your child to practice using new words. Let them make short stories, doodle, or just write what is in their heart. At first it can be just words on paper with numerous drawings. That is a fantastic start. Soon, encourage your child to write in sentences then eventually have them create stories. My daughter even writes songs and short stories. We even made a picture book.
  • Let them discover the meaning through context clues. Discovering new words mean unlocking their meaning. Instead of just handing them a dictionary or Googling the definition, help your child discover the meaning through context clues. This way you will learn how much your child comprehends what he/she is reading.
  • Use every day experiences to find new words. I am a firm believer that every experience can be a meaningful learning opportunity. It is just seeing how to capitalize the moment. As such, treat every day opportunities like learning opportunities. When you visit the grocery you can do a word hunt, synonym or antonym games, etc.
  • Play word games. When my daughter was 6 she played scrabble with us. We were surprised since she got an average of 130 points each game. Other games that she loves to play include Boggle, Word Hunt and others. She even makes up her won games.

Tip #5: Make Reading a Habit

Expose your child to words is an effective way increases their vocabulary. Moreover, your child learns new words and their proper use through practical experiences. Reading allows the child to encounter new words and appreciate how they are used.

There is a huge difference between reading to the child and reading with the child. With the former, your child takes on a more passive role. On the other hand, the later focuses a more active role of the child in the reading process. Use them wisely.

Important reading tips:

  • Choose age-appropriate books. Reading Dante’s Inferno to your toddler may not be the wisest of strategies. Instead, look for stories and books fit for his/her age. So how do you select appropriate books for your child? First, consider your child’s age and reading skill level. Browse through the book and look at choices of words used. If it says melancholic feline with a fedora instead of sad cat with a hat, then chances are it’s not for your toddler. Second, check the font face and font size used. Your child should easily recognize the letters. Lastly, choose books that will spark interest in your child. My little girl loves unicorns so obviously, that was the perfect theme to choose.
  • Pronounce the words properly. Proper pronunciation is paramount to preparing your child. Therefore, learn the proper pronunciation of the words.
  • Read slowly and emphatically. The child should be immersed in the story that you are reading. Conversely, having a bland and impersonal tone will not provide the desired outcome. Instead, stress important words. Likewise, vary your tone to build excitement. Moreover, you can change your voice for that menacing and terrifying parts as well as those adorable and comforting scenes in the book.

Language continuously evolves. Thus, keep abreast with what is current. Help your child broaden his/her learning. Building vocabulary especially in the early years forms the foundation of a healthier vocabulary in the future. But to improve kids’ vocabulary, parents must take an active role. The vocabulary of children is dependent on their experiences. The simple parenting advice here is to be involved in the child’s development. Once your child learns to love language, reading and writing, you are setting him/her for a better future.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 JP Carlos


JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on February 22, 2021:

Hi there Devika Primić,

Thank you for reading my article. Communication comes natural for us. The first cooing and babbling are examples of our need to communicate. Eventually, they learn the use of words in order to communicate. Every step is important so that they can learn faster. Parents should take on an active role in this.

JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on February 22, 2021:

Hello there Sp Greaney,

I've encountered individuals who "baby talk" kids. I find this type of conversation with the child is counter-productive. Instead, we have to help the child understand the right labels so that their symbolic understanding for words will be reinforced. Moreover, proper usage even in an early age is essential for their vocabulary development. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the topic.

JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on February 22, 2021:

Hello there Chitrangada Sharan,

Thank you for the kind words regarding my article. I believe that reading is a fundamental skill that children should master. Starting early is paramount to reading success. When parents understand the importance of reading, i hope they can take on a more active role in this.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 22, 2021:

Great article about parenting. You have suggested some important points to keep in mind to the parents, with regard to developing vocabulary of their child.

Thank you for sharing this useful article.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on February 22, 2021:

This is really interesting. I think reading books and speaking in the correct manner to kids is so important. I like the different learning methods that you have mentioned here as well.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 22, 2021:

Useful tips and so important for a child to learn vocabulary at a young age.

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