Does your child ask you “what does that mean?” when they hear you talking to others? That’s fantastic! It means your child is developing strong vocabulary building skills. Vocabulary building is when your child knows the meanings of words, the names of things, feelings & ideas and is learning the meanings of new words.
Vocabulary building is an important element of early childhood literacy skills. When your child hears you say a word they don’t understand and asks you about it, they are processing familiar words, context clues, recognizing unfamiliar words, and expressing an avid curiosity about them. Curiosity is a wonderful tool in their literacy journey.
Easy Ways to Strengthen Your Child’s Vocabulary in Everyday Conversations
- Point out synonyms for objects they are already familiar with - At breakfast you can point to a cereal box and ask them, “what’s another word for box? Container.” While helping with their homework you could ask, “what are some different things you can write with? Pencil, pen, marker, crayon”. You can turn this into a fun game during the day with plenty of encouragement and praise.
- Use words they don’t know on purpose - This can challenge your child to better interpret context clues. Always provide the answer if they can’t figure it out. When vocabulary building is a fun experience instead of a frustrating one, your child will retain more information and be more likely to develop strong lifelong literacy skills.
- Flip the script - Ask them to try and stump you on a word’s meaning. As children learn more vocabulary words at school, it can be for them to teach that knowledge to you. Be sure to let your child stump you often! Ask them what the funniest, weirdest, longest, or most confusing word is that they’ve learned that week. Perhaps provide entertaining and exaggerated reactions like, “NO WAY! FLABBERGHASTED?! That’s incredible! How do you even spell that? Wow! Let’s look it up. Thanks for telling me that one! I’m going to use it twice this week.”