As children grow, their ability to express themselves becomes more developed. Their language abilities and vocabulary expand as their curiosity about the things around them continues to fascinate them.
Words play an important role in continually helping them express their thoughts and emotions. They are crucial in communication and serve as a foundation for skills that they will need as they navigate through life, such as listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
With a plethora of words at their disposal, children who have a robust vocabulary have more freedom to articulate what they need to convey to the people around them. As babies and toddlers progress to preschool and onwards, equipping them with a good command of the language can help them achieve success in their academic endeavours as well as in their social dealings.
To help your child in preschool expand their vocabulary, here are some simple tips that you can employ:
1. Just the right number
You should try not to overdo it when teaching your child new words. Teaching too many words at once can be overwhelming. It is best to aim for around five unfamiliar new words for the child to learn each week. It would also be helpful if everyone in the family can use those words in daily conversation.
2. Repetition is key
Typically, a new word must be heard around 4 to 12 times before it is added to a child’s vocabulary.
You must bear this in mind when introducing a new word and make sure to weave it in during conversations with your child. Using the word in a variety of different contexts is also important. Throwing in a word that you have previously learnt is good too as repeated exposure is one of the best ways to master new words.
3. Keep it tangible
When teaching kids new words, it is important to have a visual representation of them.
For example,you can show your child a picture of a noun by searching online, showing a picture in a book or magazine, or having an actual example on hand. If it is an adjective, it will be helpful if they can find things that can be described using that word (e.g. having a stuffed toy on hand to use the adjective fluffy). With verbs, you can play games like Charades to act out the word with your child. This way, they will have a clear picture of what that word is and its accompanying meaning or use.
4. See, Say, Write
In order for children to learn a new word that has been added to their vocabulary list, they need to be able to read it, say it, and write it.
You must encourage your child to say a new word out loud and then repeat it, for example, when they come across a word in a book and ask how to pronounce it. On the same note, if your child hears a new word in a conversation, you should spell the word out then have your child write it down so that they can see the word and have a better chance of retaining it in their memory.
5. Read, read, read
Parents should encourage reading, as books are the number one way to expose children to words.
It is ideal if you can find time to read books with your child. When your child comes across a word that is unfamiliar, you should give a quick, kid-friendly definition and continue reading. It is important not to pause too long and highlight the fact that your child didn’t know the word. It is better to simply go back to the word after reading and ask if your kid remembers what it means.
6. Use context clues
When parents come across a new word, it is wise to point it out to the child.
You should describe how to determine the word’s meaning by using context clues. Context clues are hints (usually other words) used by the author to describe or define a difficult or unfamiliar word. By explaining the process carefully,you can show your child what to do when faced with an unfamiliar word. You can also mention the fact that even as an adult, you can still learn new words.
7. Words Are Everywhere
Parents can help build their child’s vocabulary by going to new places and exposing the child to different ideas.
When visiting the local zoo or museum, for example, you can have your child describe the various animals and exhibits on display. You can also take your child along with you as you run everyday errands—such as going to the supermarket, bank, or mall—and see what new words you can discover together.
8. Words with Variant Meanings
Homonyms or words with variant meanings are part of everyday life. These are words that sound the same but can be spelled differently and have different meanings. For example, the words “to” and “two” sound the same but have completely different spellings and meanings.
Kids, since they are still learning and expanding their vocabulary, are often challenged by these kinds of words.
You should be aware that your child might need help in this area. To help your child understand the different meanings of the same word, it is best to explain the different uses by giving examples.
For instance, the word bank can be used in the sentence as ‘I deposit my earnings in the bank’. In the same way, they should also give an example of its other meaning by using the sentence, ‘My grandmother used to live by the bank of the river.’
Having a rich vocabulary is key to a child’s success in school. It is a foundation which other skills can be built on, whether it is in Language Arts, Mathematics, or Science. Learning new words and having them at their disposal equips children with the skills to express their thoughts and feelings. It also helps them to have a better grasp of things around them, to understand other people, and be able to think logically and interpret ideas that will help them excel at school.