Fluent readers need a big vocabulary. The more words a child knows, the better reader and writer he is. (Anderson and Freebody, 1981; Graves, 1986; Stahl, 1998) (DOE, NAEP, 2011) It’s up to us as parents to help our children learn and develop a large vocabulary.
The best way to learn new words is to use them, play with them, listen to them, and apply them. While it is possible to learn new words out of context, like with flash cards, Vocabulary.com, or word of the day calendars, to actually stick in a child’s memory you need to add repetition and application.
How to Help Your Kids Learn New Vocabulary
1. Expose your child to words — talking, singing, listening!
2. Have conversations.
Talk to your children using a rich vocabulary. Explain words if you need. Listen and respond to children’s dialogue with new words and information. (This is often called “Motherese” — it’s when kids say something in kid talk such as “me want ma” and the parent responds with, “yes, you want more milk, don’t you? You are still thirsty.”)
- Children under the age of two benefit from exposure to lots of words
- Two- and three- year olds benefit from hearing a variety of sophisticated words
- Preschoolers benefit from conversations about past and future events as well as explanations
3. Provide experiences.
Parents make new experiences (and familiar ones) rich with learning when pointing out new things and talking with kids.
4. Read aloud stories.
Reading to children is one of the most beneficial activities you can do for their literacy skills.
5. Invent your own stories.
The more your child reads, the more words they learn.
7. Read a variety of genres.
Fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, nonfiction, poetry, etc, etc.
10. Pretend Play.
You can support vocabulary acquisition by introducing play specific words to children. If you’re playing doctor, teach the word stethoscope, for example.
11. Word Play.
Children 2 – 5 Years Old:
I Spy with word clues (“I spy something that starts with t-“), I Spy things that start with B (great for the car), or rhyming words (“I spy something that rhymes with dock.”)
Mad Libs, Haikubes, Going Camping game (“I’m going camping and I’m going to bring an alligator . . . “), telling jokes, WordARound, Scrabble, Bubble Talk, Sight Word Games, Boggle, Bananagrams, Yamodo, Blurt
12. Word Collections.
13. Make Inferences.
When you’re reading and find an unknown word, help kids figure out what it means by using the context clues. I usually ask kids to substitute another word to see if it will work.
14. Share Cool Words.
Pick a word from you reading that you think other people in your family don’t know. Share what it is, the meaning, and use it in a sentence. Act it out if you can.
15. Do Word Puzzles.
Do crossword puzzles, Jumble, Cryptograms, Word Search, Word Games
Download my "Can't Put 'Em Down" book lists for your kids ages 3 - 13.
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