How to Improve a Child's Vocabulary: A Speech-Language Pathologist Has the Secret... by Mindy Hudon, M.S., CCC-SLP
Did you know that kids with talkative parents may develop larger lexical diversity (the variety of words kids know and use) and cognitive ability (the process of thinking, knowledge and understanding)? Researchers from the University of York studied 107 children ages 2 to 3 in their homes using audio recorders to observe parent interactions for up to 16 hours per day. The results of this study found that there was a positive association between a parent’s use of a greater number and variety of words and a child’s cognitive ability and vocabulary diversity. This study demonstrates the importance of early-life experiences and their impact on children’s language and cognitive skills.
It’s so important to talk with your kids about absolutely anything! Exposure to a variety of words will enrich language and are the foundation to literacy. Children entering school come with different levels of vocabulary exposure. Typically, first-grade students who are exposed to a variety of words know approximately 20,000 words, while their same-aged peers with limited vocabulary exposure know 5,000. Word knowledge is the foundation of literacy development.
So what’s a parent to do? Just talk – and talk a lot! There are so many opportunities to talk, and not just at your kids, but with them!
- Put down your phone or tablet especially when you’re waiting for an appointment. This is a great opportunity to talk about their day, expectations of the appointment, planning your day or reading a book.
- Avoid having your child use devices in the car so that you can take the time to talk and tell stories.
- Expand your child’s vocabulary. For example, if your child knows the word “big,” use synonyms (other words that mean the same) like “huge," "enormous," "gigantic.” Soon you will hear your kids using a variety of words, too.
- Talk about what you’re doing while you’re doing it. It may sound silly, but children are little language sponges. For example, if you’re cooking, talk about your ingredients and cooking method, “First I’m going to cut/slice/dice the tomatoes, then I’m going to toss them with olive oil."
- There is a plethora of vocabulary in the grocery story. Use category names like “produce," "dairy," "frozen foods,” then talk about the items on your list in each category. “We need vegetables in the produce section. Squash, green beans and cabbage.”
- Nature walks are a great way to get outside and experience the beauty of our world while enriching vocabulary. Insects, animals, vegetation, aromas and textures are jam packed with words.
Be mindful of words and talk a lot with your kids. You’re not only enriching their vocabulary skills – you are building lasting memories.
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