Vocabulary can be defined as all the words an individual knows or uses. This implies that anyone with a rich vocabulary will be able to process and understand information faster.
For this reason, it is important to develop your child’s linguistic ability. Not only will a rich vocabulary enable your child to speak fluently but also help her learn to think fast on her feet.
Learning new words comes naturally to a child. So, the more words you use to communicate with him, the wider would be his vocabulary. Here are some interesting ways to help your child improve his vocabulary.
1. Use poetry as a tool
Remember the time when your little one learnt her first nursery rhyme? Well, poetry can be used to improve her vocabulary. The rhythm in poetry makes it less daunting for a child to learn new words. Also, it will help your child learn new words in relation to various contexts. While you are reading a poem to your child, explaining it to her will also enrich her vocabulary. Remember to choose poems according to the age of your child.
2. Read and read more
I hope you are one of those parents who read to their children. If you are, then you may have noticed how well your little one memorises whatever he listens to with interest. So, when you re-read a poem or a story to your child, prompt him to fill in some words or finish some of the sentences for you. This will boost his confidence, and encourage him to be attentive and learn more new words. As he grows older, allow him to choose what he wants to read.
3. Play language games
Games that involve acting out words will help your budding genius remember new words. Another way to help her learn and use new words is by asking her to draw pictures based on them. You might be surprised to see words through the eyes of a little child. You could also tap into games like Scrabble, Crosswords, Word Search, Word Builder, Upwords, Boggle and Pictionary.
4. Explain away
Examples are a sure-fire way to help your child understand words. Ask him to think of individuals in the neighbourhood or in the family who fit labelling words, professions, etc. When on a shopping trip, ask him to name the produce kept on the store shelves or the types of services offered at different stores.
5. Analyse words
A root word is the basic word to which prefixes or suffixes are added. Adding a prefix or a suffix to the root word changes its meaning. For example, introduce the word ‘comfort’ to your child. Ask her to point to objects in the room that provide her comfort. Next, introduce her to the word ‘discomfort’ by stressing on how adding the prefix ’dis-‘ to ‘comfort’, the root word, changed its meaning. To help her understand better, ask her what are the things that cause her discomfort in her everyday routine. Similarly, add the suffix ‘-able’ to the root word and ask her if she is ‘comfortable’ in different situations. Try this technique to help your child develop a formulaic vocabulary.
6. Have long conversations
The goal of developing a child’s vocabulary is to help him form complex sentences to express his thoughts. So, ask your child questions that would make him think of words he has previously used in his conversations. Encourage him to use descriptive words to explain his feelings. You can prompt him to talk more by talking about your surroundings and existing situations.
As your child grows older, introduce her to online resources like vocabulary-building games to help her develop her vocabulary. Also, there are some popular and useful apps available like ‘Learn English podcast’ by BBC, ‘Duolingo’, ‘Powervocab’, ‘Words, words, words’, and ‘Vocab builder’. Now that you know how easy it is to teach your child new words and improve her vocabulary, get going.
Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.