The ability to acquire new words, understand the meaning of words, and use them appropriately in different contexts is called vocabulary.
Vocabulary development in children is important because it improves their ability to communicate, enhances their comprehension of what they read, and strengthens their ability to express themselves.
Vocabulary is a window into a child's mind, and strong vocabulary skills can help your child do better in school and later on in life.
Because a child's vocabulary is the foundation for developing proper reading, writing, and speaking skills, it pays to build up their vocabulary from a very young age.
Here are five unique ways of boosting children's vocabulary:
1. Read Aloud
One of the best ways to start literacy with a child is reading books.
According to David Elkind, distinguished professor in the Department of Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, "The more you read to a child, the more words he or she will pick up. The things we read about in books — like dinosaurs, the alphabet, and even famous people — help them learn new words."
By reading aloud to children, you can introduce new words, ideas, and concepts that they might not hear or learn about on their own.
So, take advantage of books and read out loud with your child as often as possible so he or she can hear new words as they come up. This will help them build their vocabulary faster than just hearing the same words spoken once in a while.
2. Ask Open-ended Questions
Parents often ask their children questions that have one-word answers: "Did you have fun at school today?" But when you ask a question that requires more than a "yes" or "no" answer, you're encouraging your child to expand on what they've learned and think about it in greater detail. For example, try asking, "What was your favorite part of the day?"
Also, engage them in conversations and talk with them about new words they encounter every day. Ask questions that require more than one-word answers.
3. Word Wall
A word wall is a list of up to 100 new words that you hang in your child's room. When your child comes across a word s/he doesn't know, s/he can write it on his/her worksheet, circle it, and move on with his day.
You can hang the list in any place where your child will see it — on his/her bedroom door, desk, window, or even on the refrigerator — as long as it's facing him/her when s/he looks up from whatever s/he's doing and reads what's written there.
Photo credit: SparkleBox
The essence of a word wall is to get kids exposed to new words and also retain them.
4. Tell Stories About Your Childhood
Kids love hearing stories about when their parents were young. You'll be surprised at how much your child enjoys learning about what you were doing at his/her age and how you used to spend your time.
Tell them plenty of stories while incorporating new words into each one. Don't be afraid to tell them things you did as a kid that they would never be allowed to do now — it will make the stories even more interesting!
Use your words in context and make sure that they know exactly how they fit into the world around them.
5. Turn Off the TV and Play Games
Instead of letting your kids veg out in front of the TV all day, turn it off and play some word games with them!
There are plenty of fun word games you can play with your child that will bolster their vocabulary without boring them to tears.
Games like Scrabble, Crossword Puzzles, and Bananagrams are great for helping kids become familiar with new words and how to use them correctly.
You can also play games like Twenty Questions, which involves thinking of an object (it could be something inside or outside) and challenging your child to guess what it is by asking only yes or no questions ("Is it big?", "Is it red" etc).
You could also try playing a game in which you take turns naming items in the room that begin with a certain letter or sound. Or, name objects that fit into a specific category, such as fruits or animals.
Your options for vocabulary development games are limitless!
But if after all these, you still feel like your child's vocabulary isn't where it should be, remember that as children grow and begin to communicate, their vocabulary gradually expands to include a greater variety of words.
"A child's mind is like a sponge, they absorb everything effortlessly, continuously, and indiscriminately." - Age of Montessori
So, don't beat yourself up!