How to Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary to Improve Their Communication

In order for you and your child to benefit from this post, please click HERE (if you haven’t read it yet) to read about how vocabulary impacts communication and what the underlying cause for your child’s impaired vocabulary and communication skills may be. WHY MORE READING?!?! In order to improve your child’s vocabulary/communication, we have to treat the CAUSE so the symptoms will DISAPPEAR.

In the previous post, we talked about how a child can not communicate if they do NOT have a good “vocabulary bank” in place. Below are activities you can do at home to improve your child’s vocabulary, which will in turn, improve their communication skills.

Everyday Activities to Do at Home to
Improve Your Infant-Preschoolers Vocabulary

When choosing activities from below, be sure to pick ones that you can BE CONSISTENT with and do FREQUENTLY.

Exposure. The best way, no matter if your child is 1 or 15, to teach them vocabulary is by exposing them to it.

Walk and talk. Walk around your home, park, grocery store, ANYWHERE, and talk about what you see, hear, and smell. “I see a bird at the window,” “Hear the car honking?” or “Look at the dog.”


tangled blah blah blah GIF

Books. Read read read. There is a reason why pediatricians and developmental specialists are encouraging everyone to read to their children 20 minutes a day. It teaches them vocabulary, which is essential to comprehension, speaking, reading comprehension, and being able to carry on conversations.

YouTube. I am NOT saying to plop your child in front of YouTube frequently, but this YouTube channel is an AMAZING resource for teaching your child vocabulary. I’m in my 30’s and I enjoy watching Steve and Maggie. You can watch them here: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=steve+and+maggie

Use it in stories. Tell your child a story and use different words that have the same meaning while telling the story. For example, “The BIG wolf was hiding under the house. When he saw the little pig run by, the HUGE wolf…” Have an older child that is having difficulty understanding the meaning of their vocabulary list? Take the words in that list and tell a story using those words. Ask your child to make up a story using their vocabulary words.

Find it in cartoons. After a cartoon has ended, talk about what happened in the cartoon. If your child has difficulty finding the correct word to say, fill in the word(s) for them, then find another way to sneak that word(s) in throughout the day.

Talk about memories. Talking about memories is a good opportunity to improve your child’s use of adjectives, such as “That was a GREAT vacation” or “The storm was TERRIBLE” or “The storm was TERRIFYING.” This would also be a great opportunity for an older child to take their vocabulary list from school and recall memories that apply to their vocabulary words.

Narrate. Talk about what you are doing while you are doing it and talk about what your child is doing as they do it. For example, if your child is playing with Barbie dolls, you could say, “You’re picking up the Barbie with the brown hair. Oh, I see that you want Barbie to go swimming. Uh oh, the Barbie with the black hair just fell over!” Another example would be, “I’m hungry. Let’s go to the kitchen and find something the eat. I’m opening the refrigerator and I am going to get a yogurt. Let’s get a spoon now.” I know this seems like overkill, but that is how they learn. By watching, listening, and being part of the moment.

Look at family photos or pictures in a book. Ask your child to describe what is happening in the picture, people’s faces, their emotions, etc.

Give them hints and choices. If your child is having difficulty finding the right word to say and you know for sure what the correct word is, make the first sounds of the word. For example, if your child is trying to think of the word “skating,” say, “Ska-ska.” If this does not help, give them the word and have them repeat. Another option is giving them 2 choices. For example, you could say, “Do you mean SKATING or SWIMMING?”

drag race choices GIF by Rupauls Drag Race All Stars
Everyday Activities to Do at Home to
Improve Your Preschoolers-Teens’ Vocabulary

Draw pictures. Ask your child to draw a picture that shows the meaning of a word.

Play Go Fish. Instead of saying, “Do you have an umbrella?” say, “Do you have something you need when it rains?”

Drill and memorize. Remember the good ok’ days when we were in school and had to memorize spelling words or vocabulary words? You had to memorize them. Make sure, however, your child can apply the meaning of those vocab words to real life.

If you want to use your own word list, I suggest going to Google, and search for “1st grade vocabulary list” (or whatever grade your child is in), and use the ones from Flocabulary (should be the 1st result). If your child’s vocabulary is behind their grade level, drop down a level or two and work your way up from there.

Vocabulary Jeopardy. Make up your own version of it or go to Google, search for “quia vocabulary games” and the first hit should be “Quia – Vocabulary Jeopardy.” Or you can click on the link here

Talk about memories. Talking about memories is a good opportunity to improve your child’s use of adjectives, such as “That was a GREAT vacation” or “The storm was TERRIBLE” or “The storm was TERRIFYING.” This would also be a great opportunity for an older child to take their vocabulary list from school and recall memories that apply to their vocabulary words.

Find it in t.v. shows. After a show has ended, talk about what happened in the cartoon. If your child has difficulty finding the correct word to say, fill in the word(s) for them, then find another way to sneak that word(s) in throughout the day.

Play charades. Use your child’s vocabulary and spelling words from school, or come up with your own, and write them on index cards. Act out the meaning of the words. To simplify this game, give your child the index cards so they have the words to choose from.

jimmy fallon television GIF

If you want to use your own word list, I suggest going to Google, and search for “1st grade vocabulary list” (or whatever grade your child is in), and use the ones from Flocabulary (should be the 1st result). If your child’s vocabulary is behind their grade level, drop down a level or two and work your way up from there.

Give them hints and choices. If your child is having difficulty finding the right word to say and you know for sure what the correct word is, make the first sounds of the word. For example, if your child is trying to think of the word “skating,” say, “Ska-ska.” If this does not help, give them the word and have them repeat. Another option is giving them 2 choices. For example, you could say, “Do you mean SKATING or SWIMMING?”

Child can’t think of the word? Have them draw it out or describe it’s attributes. Suppose your child is trying to tell you what they did that day, but are using a lot of “empty” words (i.e. that thingy, whatchamacallit), stop them, ask them to describe the word they are trying to think of; color, size, shape, location, activity done in the morning, noon, at school, at football practice). If this is not effective, have them draw it out. People can often see pictures in their head, even if they don’t know the word that belongs with that mental picture.

Something to Know…

Your child’s language difficulties could be attributed to a lot of different things. Lack of vocabulary may not be the only underlying cause, but it often plays a role in language delays and disorders. Language aspects are very interlinked with one another, so it is common for a child with language difficulties to have several underlying factors.  If you’re not aware of all the different aspects of language, please click here.

Other posts that relate to this topic

What Does It Mean if My Child Has A Language Delay or Disorder?

Is Your Child Having Difficulty Communicating? It May Be Due to a Limited Vocabulary Bank.

Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking

Did that post answer any questions or address any concerns? Is there something else you would like to read about related to speech or language? Input? Leave a comment below and I’ll address it!

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