Between birth and the age of 10, a child’s brain will absorb and remember more information that at any other time in his or her life. Hence, if you have a young child, this is the best time for you to help him or her grow an internal ‘word bank’ as preparation for future success. Here, we share 10 easy tips to help you expand your child’s vocabulary though daily activities and habits – if you’re reading this, you’re probably practising quite a few already.
- Talk to Your Child
Surrounding your child with words helps to child to recall and become familiar with common repeated sounds that he or she will later associated with people, objects, actions and feelings. So keep talking to your child from birth!
- Pay attention when THEY speak
Get down to their eye-level (or bring them up to yours) when a child is talking to you. Saying out the words they have learnt builds confidence, so provide support and encouragement whenever your child attempts to strike up a conversation. If you are unable to give them your full attention, tell them you WILL get back to them (let’s say if you need to finish a phone call or a conversation with another adult) and this time, really listen. This also helps to teach them conversation etiquette.
3. Say ‘No’ to just ‘Yes’ and ‘No’
When engaging your child in conversation, respond with sentences and questions that will encourage more than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, which are swift ‘conversation killers’. For example, instead of asking a child if they would like to go to the zoo, ask them where they would like to visit and why. This encourage children to dig into their ‘word bank’ for suitable words and gain practise in using them in various contexts
- Keep a diary
If your child learns from young to spend a little time each night writing about the day’s activities, this helps them to use the words they have learnt as a form of reinforcement, When you go through what they have written, suggest new words each day to describe the things they are writing about, even if these are routine activities. This will develop their inner ‘thesaurus’.
- Work with your child at the appropriate ‘level’ of language learning
The first words that a baby or very young child understands are usual nouns, because these represent objects that they can see. Even ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’ are n nouns! Next, they will begin to understand simple verbs and objectives. Recognise which level your child is at and build on that level. If your child is just learning to speak, take a stroll with your child in the park and point out common objects such as bus, bird or tree. If your child asks you what something means, try to give a definition AND an example, so they will know how to use the word.
6. Read to your Child
We don’t have to say this often enough! Reading with your children provides so many benefits – from introducing them to new words, developing a love of books and serving as a great method of parent-child bonding. But don’t just stop at reading TO them – have them read aloud the same pieces to you, discuss the storyline and new words encountered, and get their imagination fired up with ‘What if’ and ‘What would YOU do’ type of questions related to the story.
- Create a ‘Word-rich’ environment Nowadays, many homes prefer a clean and ‘minimalist’ look where objects and items are neatly tucked away (such homes are also easy to clean). This is not wrong, but where possible, make items and resources conducive to vocab-building visible and easily accessible to children. These include board games, a world map that encourages them to look up names of countries they see in a TV programme or hear in a conversation, books of all kinds, a PC for surfing the Internet, puzzles and word games. Provide opportunities for ‘activity extension’ – after watching a video or TV programme about an animal, human interest story or event, let them try to look it up more information and photos about it in books and the Internet.
8. Music, please! Songs in themselves help to expand a child’s vocabulary. Who doesn’t recall the sounds made by animals after learning ‘Old McDonald had a farm?’ One of the silliest games that children love to do is to replace the lyrics of well-known and loved song with their own funny creations. Encourage this creativity in them for it makes them search for suitable words and rhyming words as well, plus you may just discover a gift for singing in your child.
9. Go ahead, play games!
Word games are some of the best ways to introduce new words in a fun and exciting manner. Ask your child to guess the animals or objects that produce certain sounds (making them as funny as you like), or play iSpy whenever you’re on a road journey. With older kids, play games that encourage them to think of synonyms, antonyms, or how to describe something in different ways. Just like reading together, playing together fosters bonding too.
10. SET a GOOD example
We HAVE to end with this – DO as you would like YOUR child to do. Make reading a part of your life, let your child hear you say different types of words in different contexts, and make it a point to share new words your encounter or hear in the media with your child. When they see you do doing these, they will adopt the same habits too.