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Developing your child’s vocabulary is a fundamental part of their learning, often leaving parents and guardians wondering how to build your child’s vocabulary. A rich and varied vocabulary helps children to say and articulate exactly what they mean. When children know a lot of words, they can understand a lot more too, so they can get a much better understanding of the world around, them while communicating effectively. 

The word gap has deepened over the past few years, particularly with the pandemic. And with large gaps in their vocabulary, many children struggle to understand and retain information in their learning. But in positive news, more schools are putting in amazing work to bridge the word gap and ensure that children have the vocabulary they need. And you can help at home too!

Our tips for how to build your child’s vocabulary

Improving your child’s vocabulary can be really fun and exciting for both of you, and the joy of listening to your child articulating exactly what they want to say as their vocabulary expands really can’t be understated.

So, here are Explore Learning’s favourite ways to help improve your child’s vocabulary at home. 

Reading for pleasure

One of the most effective ways to improve your child’s vocabulary as they begin to understand more words is to read a lot. That doesn’t just have to be books – children can read comics, leaflets, posters and even bits in the newspaper if they’re interested. Reading is still reading!

Inspiring children to read for fun, whether they’re reading books or any other material they’re interested in, can be a huge boost to children’s vocabulary. It can also help improve their spelling, grammar, and confidence in their reading and boost their overall academic performance.

Reading will expose children to lots of new words, so be ready to talk to them about new words and ask them what they think those words might mean. This can be a really good way to get children thinking about language and associating words with their meaning. 

Even if your child isn’t quite ready to start reading on their own yet, you can read together and read aloud, and encourage them to join you where they can to work on their spoken language. 

Read together and talk about word meaning

When you read together with your child, talk about the meanings of different words they encounter. Ask them what they think those words mean, and see if they can figure it out from the context of the word in the sentence – contextual learning is a fantastic way to keep working on vocabulary as children learn to identify words they hear repeatedly and the way that those words are used. That way they start to understand how those words are used, and can confidently use those words themselves. 

Ask children questions that focus on particular words that can be linked to what they’re reading. For example, if the character they’re reading about is acting in a selfish way, ask your child if they think the character is selfish and ask them to describe why. This not only teaches them the word but helps them get a better understanding of its meaning and why that word is effective to use in a particular situation. 

Use new, exciting and interesting words

Don’t be afraid of using interesting words as your child is expanding their vocabulary. It can be a great teaching moment if your child doesn’t understand a word you’ve used, so don’t dumb down your own vocabulary. As we mentioned earlier, children can learn words contextually if they frequently hear examples of those words.

For example, instead of saying that something like receiving a gift made you happy, say it made you delighted. Teaching children words like this early on allows them to express the way they’re feeling in many different ways, and allows them to write more creatively – so it’s a great way to encourage creative writing. 

Practice creative writing

Putting the words they learn into practice is a really important step for children in improving their vocabulary. It not only helps with understanding the words they’re learning but it shows that they have the confidence to use their newly learned language. So, it’s time to get writing! 

Creative writing can be a really fun way for children to work on using their vocabulary. Provide them with story prompts, or ask them to rewrite the ending of their favourite story or even carry on the story themselves. See what they come up with! 

The school holidays are really good inspiration for children, so be sure to get your children to do some summer creative writing! They could keep a diary, write a letter to a friend or relative, write a summer poem or even write an essay about what they did over the summer. It’s all good vocabulary practice and an exciting way to keep on top of their summer learning. 

Play vocabulary games

A lot of boredom-busting games you’ll be familiar with from long car journeys are actually great ways to improve vocabulary. 

Eye spy, for example, helps children put what they know about the world around them into practice. You can also teach them the words for objects they don’t know the word for yet while you play. 

Try telling stories out loud too, with each player coming up with one new sentence in the story when it’s their turn. This not only puts their vocabulary to practice but can help children get a better understanding of sentence structure, particularly if they’re not strong writers yet. 

Charades is always a fun game for the family. With children, it helps with their understanding of different words, as they have to understand what they’re trying to show you to win. This game can also really help with developing children’s fine motor skills. 

Act out with adverbs

Understanding the difference between adjectives and adverbs can be a tricky concept for children to get their heads around. So, cement the link between verbs and adverbs by getting children to act out adverbs! Ask them to creep slowly, speak quietly, dance beautifully or sing softly. 

Get children to think about the different ways they can perform different actions and the adverbs that describe those actions. 

Films, audiobooks and apps

Not every child loves reading, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get to experience the stories that’ll help expand their vocabulary. Watching films based on a book, for example, can be a good way to get reluctant readers interested in a story and could just encourage them to read those books. Audiobooks are another good method of exposing reluctant readers to new words.

There are also a lot of apps out there that can help children with their vocabulary. Apps like Vocab Ninja or My First 1000 Words help children practice their vocabulary in fun and engaging ways – even for reluctant readers!

Keep on talking

One of the best ways to keep children learning and practising their vocabulary is to keep talking! So try to make a little bit of time every day to sit down as a family and talk. Ask your children about what their favourite part of the day was or what they’re looking forward to tomorrow, talk about where they’re up to in their book or what happened in their favourite TV show as ways to get your children engaged in conversation. 

Considering tuition to help with vocabulary?

Improving your child’s vocabulary early on can give them a real head start in their academic journey and help them approach learning with confidence and excitement. 

With our English tuition, we’ll work on core skills with your children, like improving their vocabulary, so they can move on to applied skills like developing a love of reading and eventually independently reading challenging materials.