How Can I Support My Child’s Vocabulary Development?

November 6, 2019 No Comments

In our day-to-day life we are constantly exposed to new words which help us to understand the world around us and to communicate effectively with others.

Why is early vocabulary development so important?

Children use language throughout the day to ask for what they need or want, to tell us how they feel and to share news about their day.

Recent studies have found that early vocabulary development is the single most important factor in predicting success with literacy, education, emotional well-being and future employment.

What can I do to support my child’s vocabulary development?

Here is a list of my favourite vocabulary development activities and strategies for you to carry out and use with your child:

1. Create a word web with your child which focuses on all the information they already know about target word (FREE resource attached below). If your child is unfamiliar with the word, you can use books, youtube videos, photographs and pictures to help to support their understanding, By learning a lot about the word, your child will be better able to store and retrieve it.

When you have finished creating each word web you should store them all in your child’s personal vocabulary books, so that you can use it as your child’s personal dictionary.

2. When your child is learning a new word it is important that you teach all of the meanings of that word e.g. bat – something you use to hit a ball, bat – an animal that flies during the night.

3. Make sure your child has sufficient opportunities to use his/ her new words in sentences. This will support him/ her to retain the new vocabulary.

4. Discuss situations in real life where the target word occurs. Encourage your child to identify experiences she/ he has had with the word, e.g. time – quarter of an hour, quantity – he gets a quarter of the sweets.

5. Encourage your child to sort items or pictures into their family groups, e.g. Transport, Animals, Food, Clothes, Buildings, etc. When your child is confident at this, subdivide into further groups, e.g. transport for road/water/air, animals that can fly/run/swim, clothes for hot/cold weather etc.

Use a selection of pictures or objects (real and pretend) OR without the use of objects and pictures ask ‘What category are these from?’ 

  • Apple, pear, bananna 
  • Table, chair, bed 
  • Monkey, giraffe, elephant

6. Think about the ways in which two objects are the same and how they are different. In the early stages use real objects and help to make the comparisons, e.g. dog/cat, pen/pencil. Gradually move onto more difficult pairs, e.g. cup/bucket.

7. Get your child to think about what the word sounds like, for example:

  • What is the 1st sound in the word?
  • How many syllables are there in the word? Can you clap the syllables out together?
  • Can you think of any other words that rhyme with your target word e.g. cat, mat, bat.

8. If your child is older, it is also important that you also teach all the prefixes (group of letters that change the meaning of a word when they are added to the start) and suffixes (a letter or group of letters that goes on the end of a word and changes the word’s meaning) that go with the target word to generalise your child’s understanding of the word in all contexts.

For example:

Prefix –

  • un usually means not. For example, unhappy, unlocked, unfair
  • dis and mis usually have negative meanings. For example, disagree, disobey, misbehave, mislead
  • re usually means again or back. For example, redo, reappear, redecorate

Sufix –

  • Adding ‘ing’ can change a noun into a verb eg ‘garden’ to ‘gardening’.
  • Adding ‘ed’ can put a verb in the past tense eg ‘jump’ to ‘jumped’.

9. One of the best things you can do with your child to develop their vocabulary is to read to/ with them. Exposure to new books allows your child to hear a wide range of vocabulary in different contexts, which helps them to develop their understanding of these words. Check out The Book Corner to find some of my favourite children’s books.

I hope that you enjoy carrying out these activities with your child to support their vocabulary development. Which activity or strategy do you think you will find most useful?


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I am a Speech & Language Therapist who is passionate about all things AAC, Gestalt Language processing and providing neurodiversity-affirming services! Read More

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