One of the most common questions thrown the way of pretty much every speech therapist across the UK each and every day is that of how a parent can help improve and enhance a child’s vocabulary. While it’s of course fair to say that the mastering of communication skills may in a technical sense carry the most importance, those with the strongest and most extensive vocabulary skills will benefit greatly throughout their development.
In terms of how parents can help, perhaps the most effective way of helping to boost a child’s vocabulary is also the most obvious. By engaging in a conversation with them, reading to them and encouraging them to talk at every given opportunity, they are given plenty of chances to practice their existing skills, build new skills and indeed build the confidence required to continue their development. Nevertheless, there are other more specific approaches that can be taken in order to help improve the child’s development – one of which being a fantastically effective method for teaching specific words and phrases.
Follow Their Interests
When going about the process of nurturing improved vocabulary skills, what’s important to remember is that the process must at no time be allowed to become something of a chore. It is imperative that your child remains interested in order to gain maximum benefit, which is why it’s a good idea to introduce new words and phrases in accordance with subjects or activities of interest to them. After all, if it is a word or phrase that will help them get even more out of their budding interests and passions, chances are they’ll be more than keen to learn it.
So with all of the above in mind, what follows is a very quick rundown of six simple steps which can prove hugely effective in communicating new words and phrases to younger children:
- First of all, assuming that you have already decided on a word or a combination of words that you would like your child to learn, you need to be able to describe it in a manner that your child will understand. For example, if you were to introduce the word ‘enormous’ to your child, the best way of describing the word’s meaning would be as something that is very, very big. It’s a case of taking a word they already know and introducing something more advanced or descriptive – thus making the definition of the word much easier.
- After the word has been described, it is then a case of putting it into some kind of context by creating an example of its use. For example, you could choose to use the word while looking through a picture book of animals, talking to your child about how the lion in the picture is big, but the elephant or dinosaur is enormous. In doing so, you are not simply giving them a new word to memorise, but are instead giving it real meaning and showing its meaning in a comparative sense.
- The next step in the process is to give your child the opportunity to associate something they can think of with the new word. In this instance, it would be as simple as asking the child other examples of anything they can think of that are enormous. This can be made into a game wherein you ask them to come up with as many examples as possible of things that are enormous.
- Make the effort to ensure that for the immediate future at least, you somehow bring the word into everyday conversation and repeat it sufficiently as to ensure it sticks. And once again, encourage the child to associate the new word with their activities and the things they come across in everyday life.
- When introducing new words such as this, it can also be extremely effective to introduce opposites at the same time. If for example you were introducing the word “enormous”, you could also introduce ‘tiny’ at the same time. In many instances, the introduction of two words which are exact opposites makes it easier for the child to interpret their meaning and understand them in context.
- Last but not least, be sure to keep family members and friends up to speed with your efforts when it comes to this kind of vocabulary training as the more consistently your child is exposed to new words and phrases, the more they stand to benefit. Keep a list of the words and phrases you have actively introduced and take note of just how well or otherwise they are assimilated and subsequently used by your child.