10 Tips for Expanding Your Child’s Vocabulary
Can't wait to hear your little one say "I love you, Mama?" Here are 10 easy tips on how to help expand your toddler's vocabulary.
Talk, Talk, Talk
Studies show that the baby talk many moms use as a way to communicate helps babies learn to talk—making communication important from birth. As the child grows, Carol Garhart Mooney, author of Use Your Words, says parents need to correct improper word usage. When your child uses a word improperly, Mooney advises that you explain the error and offer a correction. “This clarification is essential to help children make sense of the word.”
By talking with your child eye-to-eye you’re letting her know that she’s captured your complete attention. This small act builds your child’s self confidence. All too often we say “Shhhh!” when our children talk. If you must quiet your child temporarily, be sure to return to her, on her level, and ask her to repeat herself so you can hear what she has to say. Modeling appropriate behavior is the most effective way to teach manners and etiquette vocabulary.
Engage in Conversation
“Most adults are much better talking at children than they are at talking with them,” says Mooney. To exercise your child’s vocabulary, ask questions that require in-depth answers. For instance, instead of asking a child if he wants pasta for lunch, ask which kind of pasta he wants and why. The more a child has to use his words, the more adept he will become at conversation and vocabulary will improve naturally.
Reading to children fosters a love for literature and improves vocabulary through exposure to words. “Reading aloud is particularly helpful when the reader pauses during reading to define an unfamiliar word and after reading engages the child in a conversation about the book,” according to the Partnership for Reading. You can employ this oral exercise with your toddler while reading bedtime stories.
Limit TV Viewing
Language is symbolism. Sounds stand for things, actions, and descriptions—but when a child is watching television, her brain does not have to produce representative images because images are already provided on screen. Audio recordings are a thought-provoking alternative to television and videos because children must form their own images of the words they hear.
Understand Which Words Come First
According to a study by the NIH, a 20-month-old’s vocabulary consists mostly of nouns. Parents can focus teaching based on this natural progression of understanding. Sit with your child and name, don’t describe, items from his toy box. Children can comprehend and learn to describe how the items look and feel later with simple verbs (run, jump, eat, play) and adjectives to describe emotions, colors, and sizes.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a booming success with young viewers because Fred Rogers spoke directly to each child, taking advantage of children’s love for attention. You too can use this as a teaching technique. Play games with your child. From familiar unnamed games like “What sound does this animal make?” to the ever-popular I Spy, one-on-one parent-child games offer concentrated time for teaching, learning, and bonding.
Build a Learning Environment at Home
What’s in your family room? Probably a television and stereo, maybe an Internet connection or video games, and a collection of CDs and DVDs. What about books, art supplies, maps, puzzles, and board games? Providing a rich learning environment at home can help all aspects of a child’s education, including vocabulary.
Introduce a Second Language
Some schools in the US offer a second language, and TV programs such as Dora the Explorer introduce bilingualism to little kids. Not only will learning a second language widen a child’s vocabulary, but words from various languages often originate from the same Greek and Latin roots. Recognizing similarities in word roots opens a new level of understanding language that will help a child throughout life.
Set an Example
Adults only learn about 25 new words each year, according to 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary. Set an example by showing them adults can expand their vocabularies too. By setting a precedent for learning in your home, your children will know the importance you place on education. Words are powerful tools.
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