Speech Pathology News: Vocabulary Development

Teaching vocabulary

Teaching children new words can be a fun challenge. Having a wide and varied vocabulary helps children to understand the world around them, tell stories easily, explain themselves, and understand the books or texts that they read.

Research has shown the importance of repetition when developing vocabulary. Children must engage with a word several times in different contexts before it is learnt. The more you read to your child, the larger their vocabulary will become.

Key strategies to develop vocabulary:

  • Read stories to your child and then talk about them. Ask, “what was that story about?” or “did you like that character? Why?”
  • Read books that will extend your child’s vocabulary, and take time to talk about new words. Choose books that have some, but not too many, new words.
  • At mealtimes, talk about the food you’re preparing, what you’re doing to it, how it tastes and what it looks like.
  • Talk about objects outside the house when on an outing—for example, the rustling of leaves, or the sounds of the birds, or traffic.
  • Talk about a game that your child is playing—ask them to explain what just happened.
  • Talk about the recent past. Ask your child to tell you something they enjoyed doing that week.
  • Talk about the future. Tell your child what you’re going to do the next day or on the weekend.
  • Encourage children to recognise when they have encountered new words.
  • Every day, choose a new ‘word of the day’ and attempt to use it in different contexts as many times as possible.
  • Check for your child’s understanding of the meaning of words.
  • Encourage your child to monitor their own comprehension and to ask questions such as “what does that mean?”