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How to Improve Your Preschooler’s Vocabulary?

Do you feel like your preschooler's vocabulary is lacking? For example, do they have trouble understanding conversations or repeating words that you say to them? 

It can be frustrating as a parent trying to find ways to improve their child's speech and language skills. 

Before a child can learn to read, they need to have a good, well-rounded understanding of essential words and what they mean. 

There's a strong connection between understanding words and understanding what you read. This means that kids who learn and think differently often do better at reading comprehension when they know, practice and understand terms.

And while that may sound a bit overwhelming, there are straightforward ways that you can build a preschooler's vocabulary and introduce early reading concepts. 

You probably do a whole lot of them usually, throughout your day or week, without even noticing it.

From reading aloud to your preschooler to simply engaging in conversation, you are helping your little one learn words—how they work, what they mean, how they are the same, how they are different and much more.

Parents can help with language skills even when their child has speech delays.

The more parents do to help children overcome challenges, the better prepared the child for kindergarten.

Parents of children with disorders such as autism, apraxia of speech, and stuttering issues may want to consult with a speech therapist before getting started.

Often, therapists can recommend effective techniques for building spoken and receptive language skills.

Here are some easy and fun vocabulary-building activities that you can do every day that will help you teach your child new words.

The Value of Vocabulary

Words are important because they allow you to convert thoughts with precision and concision and share them with others. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne, an 18th Century American novelist and author of the classic "The Scarlet Letter," may have expressed the power of words best: "Words…so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become, in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."

The combination of words – skillfully used – have empowered, entranced, and enthralled us in the hands of orators and writers throughout history. 

Verses of religious texts, Lincoln's memorialisation of the dead in his Gettysburg Address, and Franklin D. Roosevelt's message to a nation deep in the throes of economic depression, unemployment, and uncertainty ("The only thing we have to fear is fear itself") are just several of many memorable phrases and passages that will be eternal.

Words are essential to the imagination, forming new images and sensations not experienced through the physical senses. 

Words convey emotions, memories, concepts, and facts and are the basis by which humans communicate. 

Being able to say what you mean in words that others understand without confusion is essential to understanding. 

As Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

Children and Vocabulary

As children grow and develop, their brain cells form connections (synapses) that become stronger and more complex as the maturing child uses them or gains experience. 

During the first ten years of life, there are times when learning is remarkably rapid, what some researchers refer to as "windows of opportunity" or "critical periods." 

Language abilities appear during the first year. In year two, a child's vocabulary can quadruple, a phase that researchers call the "vocabulary explosion."

But as humans mature, some synaptic connections wither and disappear – which synapses survive and thrive depend upon their use, a function of the environment. 

For example, a two-year-old might recognise words in two foreign languages if parents use both around him. 

But if one language predominates and the other is no longer used, the ability to understand or speak the absent language will be eventually lost.

Since vocabulary is easiest to learn as a young child, and acquiring sign language can help your child succeed in life, one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is an expanded vocabulary. 

It is also an inexpensive gift, does not involve specialised training or expensive curricula, and can be delivered without extraordinary effort. 

Children receive the knowledge almost unconsciously, without feeling that they are being tutored or forced into hours of practice and tedium. 

And it is a gift that will keep on giving, year after year, throughout their lives.

How to Expand Your Child's Vocabulary


While there are many methods to communicate the joy and meaning of words, the following exercises are generally agreed to be the most effective:

Talk To Your Children Regularly

Kids spoken to frequently in their first three years have an IQ that's one-and-a-half times greater than those who aren't. 

Using words in context is especially important. For example, a mother preparing breakfast might hold up an egg while saying "egg" before cooking. 

Nonverbal clues, in addition to repetition, improve understanding and learning. For example, when you carry your baby, point to things or people and name them.

Describe The Word

Describe each new word you introduce. 

For example, maybe you're teaching your child the word merchant, which is common in upper-elementary social studies textbooks. 

You can talk with your child about the local merchants in your town. What kinds of stores are in your town? What do they sell?

Say It Your Way

Once you've described a new word, it helps to ask kids to develop their way to describe it. 

For example, after explaining how fortunate you are to have such a friendly family, your son or daughter might explain how good they feel to have the latest video game.

Act It Out

By acting out a word, your child is bound to understand it better. This may be particularly helpful if your child has lots of energy and loves to run around. 

The new word frolic, for example, can come alive through jumping around like a puppy, goat, or lamb. So why not bring the fun outdoors as well? Frolic in the garden, yard or along the sidewalk.

Quick Draw

Get some pencils and paper. Then, without using actual words, draw a quick sketch of what the new term is. 

You might decide to represent the word, reluctant, by drawing a person standing at the edge of a swimming pool with only one toe in the water. 

Your child, who is reluctant to eat vegetables, might draw a big bowl of broccoli and a frown face next to it.

Analyse This

Teach your child the meanings of common prefixes and suffixes. 

For example, the prefix multi- means many, and the suffix -less means not or without. Geo is a root word that means earth, as in geology. 

Recognising these patterns will help your child with word meanings and understanding.

Visit The Library

If you are looking for a great place to start building your preschooler's vocabulary and early reading skills, look no further than your local library. 

Research shows a strong correlation between library use and literacy-building skills in young children.

If you aren't sure what to do when you get there, ask your librarian for help.

Just being around a place where there are many books and literary references will go a long way to helping your preschooler feel comfortable about reading. 

Children's libraries often have fun and engaging events and activities for young children, exposing them to new words and socialising.

Substitute Synonyms

An easy way to introduce your child to new words is to use them yourself. After all, you are your child's first and best role model. 

One way to do this is to become a walking thesaurus and substitute synonyms for different words. 

While synonyms are typically words that mean the same thing, often, a synonym is more descriptive than the original word.

When it comes to preschool vocabulary building, enormous is always better than big. Here are some other suggestions:

  • Cold: Cool, chilly, bitter, freezing, raw
  • Hot: Warm, humid, boiling, tropical
  • Innovative: Clever, bright, brilliant, wise is an excellent resource for finding synonyms.

Teach And Reinforce The Alphabet

Singing the ABC song provides children who are learning the alphabet with some reinforcement and confidence. 

The bonus: it's a great way to keep your preschooler busy on long car rides, in waiting rooms, or while waiting in lines.

You can also play games using the alphabet, such as I'm Going On a Picnic or the Alphabet Game, where you name items that start with letters in alphabetical order. 

Your little one may also enjoy playing learning games online that focus on building alphabet skills.

Use Descriptive Words

When it comes to increasing your child's vocabulary, more is better. The more words that your child hears daily, the more she'll learn, absorb and eventually put to use themself.

Try to use a variety of descriptive words in daily conversation.

For example, when describing a fabric pattern, try using unusual, relaxing, or creative words. 

These words may be beyond a toddler's understanding right now, but by using them in the proper context, you'll make them more understandable.

Make Labels

If you want your preschooler to learn more words, then make it easy. In addition to saying them often, show them too. 

Build on their basic comprehension of well-known words by using a label maker to name commonly used items, so they learn to recognise what the word looks like. 

For example, if her toys are separated into different bins of like items, label the containers, such as blocks, dolls, cars, books, etc.

Write A Story.

Using a list of new words, ask your child to be an author and write a story. Of course, your child will need to use all of the terms correctly to do this well. 

Bringing words together into a story-form from a list will take imagination. Encourage your child to be creative and have fun.

Talk To Your Children Regularly

Kids spoken to frequently in their first three years have an IQ that's one-and-a-half times greater than those who aren't. 

Using words in context is especially important. For example, a mother preparing breakfast might hold up an egg while saying "egg" before cooking. 

Nonverbal clues, in addition to repetition, improve understanding and learning. For example, when you carry your baby, point to things or people and name them.

Avoid Baby Talk With Infants

childhood education

Use actual words, and avoid using the nonsensical sounds a baby makes, a high-pitched, sing-song tone of voice, exaggerated facial expressions, and long, drawn-out vowels. 

Instead, use nursery rhymes, and sing to help them manipulate sounds. 

As they grow older, let them listen to and participate in higher-level conversations around the dinner table and with family.

Read Books To Your Children

Begin with simple picture books with a single word or short sentence on each page. Then, as your child grows, gradually increase the length and difficulty of the stories. 

And keep them engaged by asking them questions about the story, such as who the different characters are and what they are doing. 

For example, you could point at a picture of a lion and explain how a lion communicates by mimicking a roar and then compare the cry to the sounds a cow makes. 

Don't worry about sticking to the exact words on the page – you are not teaching reading but vocabulary. But, again, engagement is more important than accuracy.

Encourage Storytelling

Let your child makeup stories and ask the questions so you can introduce new words with similar meanings. 

This gives the child a context of understanding. 

For example, if the child says, "It was huge," you could respond, "It must have been enormous." 

When introducing a new word, you should do the following:

  • Provide a simple, kid-friendly definition for the new term ("enormous" means "really big").
  • Provide an example of the word that makes sense in their experience ("Remember the huge watermelon we got at the store? That was an enormous watermelon").
  • Encourage your child to develop their example (What else can you think of that would be enormous? That's right, the train was considerable!).
  • Keep new words active. Kids learn by repetition and practice, so keep using the latest words in conversation.

Promote Word-consciousness

Play with words through games, songs, and humour, emphasising the fun of words and discovering meanings. 

Create a word-rich environment with plenty of books appropriate for their age and older, including comic books and magazines. 

Games like Hangman and Word Search can entertain and educate more minor children, while Scrabble, Boggle, and Balderdash attract older kids. 

Encourage rhyming games and poetry. Use flashcards with pictures and printed words related to words they already know to learn new words. 

Use words in multiple, meaningful contexts so they can understand their definition and use it more easily. For example, if a child knows what to be mad, it will be easier to introduce irate, angry, or frustrated words.

Encourage Your Children To Read And Write On Their Own

Studies indicate that we learn as much as 20% of our vocabulary by reading and writing, promoting the correct and regular use of the new words. 

Get your children library cards and take them regularly to borrow books. Emphasise the importance of reading by turning off the television for regular periods and reading as a family. 

When new words are identified, discuss them and their usage. 

Keep a dictionary handy, but don't turn every question into a chore of research – if reading is considered fun in their early years, children will likely continue the practice as they grow older.

Become A Super Sorter

Seeing is learning when it comes to introducing new words. 

They are teaching your preschooler how to sort and categorise will help their logical thinking and build their vocabulary.

An excellent way to help preschoolers learn new words is to take what they are hearing and help them to visualise it. Use flashcards or cut pictures out of magazines for this game.

Practice Rhymes

Rhyming is not only fun, but it is also an easy way to get your toddler thinking about how different words can relate to each other. 

How many rhyming words can your preschooler come up with? The fat cat sat on the mat. The white kite flew at night.

Dr Seuss books are an excellent resource for learning rhymes, such as Hop on Pop and Green Eggs and Ham.

Read Aloud Together

Besides being an excellent way to spend quality time with your preschooler, reading aloud is a great way to expose them to new words.

Choose books that are of interest to your preschooler but that use slightly above their understanding words.

Together, you can work through what they mean by using context—the other words and any pictures on the page. 

Final Word

As vocabulary is reduced, so are the number of feelings you can express, the number of events you can describe, the number of the things you can identify! 

Not only understanding is limited, but also experience.

An extensive vocabulary can help a child have a richer, more varied, and more fulfilling life, which all parents want for their children. 

Putting these methods into effect today will pay life-long dividends to your child.

As you can see, increasing your child's vocabulary isn't tricky, but it is necessary to begin their journey to reading. 

In some cases, such as taking your child to the library or labelling items in your home, preplanning is required. 

But for the most part, helping your child learn and incorporate new words is just a natural part of your day.

Read dailyBooks are the number one way to expose kids to a richer vocabulary. As often as possible, read books with your child. When she comes to a word that she doesn't know, give your child a quick kid-friendly definition and continue reading.

Here is what you can do for your toddler's vocabulary development.
  1. Read Together. This is one of the most recommended activities to enhance the vocabulary of a toddler. ...
  2. Talk with your Child. ...
  3. Sing Songs. ...
  4. Try Pointing Game. ...
  5. Teach Him Sensory Words. ...
  6. Explore Your Surroundings. ...
  7. Let Him Play with Older Children. ...
  8. One Word Per Day.

The typical 4-year-old: Has a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words. Easily puts together sentences of 4 or 5 words.

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