Building Vocabulary

Once they are talking, there are many ways to build a child’s vocabulary.

  • Continue giving running commentary – Talk about all the things they are doing and seeing. Be sure to include functional definitions and adjectives.
  • Continue echo expansion – When they say, “more juice,” model back, “you’d like more apple juice, please?” Keep their language intact and ad on. Model longer phrases and more descriptive language.
  • Plan-Do-Review – If you are going to the pumpkin patch this weekend, before you go get out the pictures from last year and discuss the details or check out a few books from the library about pumpkin patches. This is the “plan” part. While at the pumpkin patch give them running commentary about all that is happening. This is the “do” part. After, talk about what was their favorite thing to do or discuss the day when you get the pictures printed. This is the “review” part. Children are benefitting from having the language before, during and after.
  • Encourage emotion language – Label their and your emotions. Talk about the causes and consequences of emotions. Discuss how people calm and how people cope.
  • Play word games – For the beginner, this includes “I spy” and rhyming games. As they get older, this is 20 questions, telephone and Mystery Garden.
  • Practice following directions – By two years old, we expect two-step directions. By three years old, we expect three-steps. A three-step directions is, “go to the kitchen, get your shoes and bring them to the front door.” If you are unsure, play the Crazy Directions game. This is where you say things like, “find the cat, kiss his nose and jump up and down. Ready, go.” This is more fun and serves the same purpose.
  • Give a vocabulary word a day – There are many websites and calendars to build vocabulary, and the idea is to present and discuss a new word each day with you child. See how often you can each use it.
  • Continue to read aloud – Plan to do this long past the point they are reading to themselves. Yes, it is nice to give them time for that, but plan to do both. Everyday have some time spent reading independently and some time spent reading aloud.

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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