From their earliest days (perhaps even in utero) our children’s brains are hearing and making connections between words and objects around them.
Sometime between the age of 1 and 2 they begin to use words to name objects around them. It is fun to hear our children’s first words (I bet you know what your child(ren)’s was/were). Then they begin to express themselves more as they learn more words. During that time there is also sometimes frustration because they want to say something but we don’t understanding what they mean. There are also funny times where we have difficulty understanding what they mean because the words they are using don’t make sense to us.
I have a 30 month old and it amazes me how quickly his vocabulary is increasing. And watching his vocabulary increase is exactly what we want!
Now you may be asking why vocabulary matters to reading. The answer is simply, it is very difficult to read a word that you have never heard. My husband had to write a dissertation for grad school. I started to read it. But beyond words like “a” “and” or “the”, I had never heard most of the words in it. I had no idea how to pronounce the words and no concept of what they meant. Likewise our children, without a strong vocabulary, will struggle with reading.
Here are 3 ideas of how to increase your child’s vocabulary.
1. Talk to our children. Use real words. When they call something by a wrong name encourage them for taking the risk and introduce them to the correct term. When my 2 year old sees smoke coming out of the chimney of the house across the street we encourage him to use the word smoke or steam to describe it rather than telling us the house is hot. We know what he means. We think it is super cute. But we also want him to learn new vocablary.
2. Expose them to new experiences. Take them to the zoo. Take them to museums. Take them on walks. Take them to the park. Go places with them. And use appropriate vocabulary for those places. When you take them to new places you will naturally use different vocabulary and it will help expand their knowledge. My mom loves to recount my oldest brothers first experience with a standardized test. There was a question on the test that required him to know enough about baseball to know what a home run was. Now my oldest brother is BRILLIANT, but we were not a baseball family. He didn’t like sports at all so he had never been exposed to that vocabulary. He couldn’t begin to answer that question because he didn’t know what a home run was. A little natural exposure to that vocabulary was all he needed! Where could you take your child to introduce them naturally to some new experiences and vocabulary?
3. READ – read lots of different books. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read fantasy. READ READ READ! And talk about words they might not know. Show them pictures of items and places and things in the book. Discuss what action words mean. What does it mean to hop? What does it mean to gallop? What does it mean to swoon? What does it mean to spin wool? Talk about those things. Explain what those words mean!
If you do these things with your child regularly, I am quite confident they will have at least 3,000 – 5,000 vocabulary words by the time they enter school, likely more. These will help your child be ready to read!
See entire series here.