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April 21, 2024

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Fun Ways to Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

Make learning new words a good time for your whole family!

Building vocabulary is essential to success. According to the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation, a non-profit organization that studies human abilities and aptitudes, vocabulary level is the best predictor of overall success in school and performance on the SAT-verbal and other similar tests.

A characteristic of successful people in many occupations is a large and exact vocabulary. When children are babies, we can't wait for them to learn to talk. Parents instinctively teach their infants vocabulary by reading to them, identifying objects and through conversation. Small children learn literally thousands of words. As children reach school age, they are introduced to more vocabulary through their weekly lists of words and reading. Vocabularies grow when kids read, write and converse. Memorizing vocabulary lists is dull work. Whether your child is a preschool or early elementary age, you can help to expand their vocabulary with some fun strategies.

Make Learning Vocabulary Fun

When your child comes home with a list of words she has to know by the end of the week, write each word on one side of an index card. Flip the card over and write the definition. Put the cards on the dining room table, and during dinner, pass a card to each member of the family. No one is allowed to speak unless they are using the vocabulary word in a sentence. Once the word is used, select another card. The person who has correctly used the most words at the end of the meal wins the game.


If your child doesn't have a school-generated vocabulary list, post a family word-of-the-day. Be creative, and hang the words in the bathrooms, on the refrigerator or in the car. Incorporate the words into daily conversations. When playing Scrabble, Bananagrams or other word games, give bonus points for using the special words.

Share a New Word

Once a week, have each family member share a new word he or she has encountered. Mom and Dad should look for new words while they are reading the newspaper, a novel or even a cookbook. As kids get older and their vocabulary expands, they will enjoy stumping you with their knowledge. Even if your child is an avid reader, don't assume her vocabulary is growing. Children and adults are guilty of skipping over unfamiliar words to get on with the story. Readers rely on context clues and don't always stop to use a dictionary.

Keep dictionaries easily accessible in your home. Show your child how to use a dictionary on the Internet, too. Britannica Kids is a great resource that includes a world of the day with pronunciation. In addition, Merriam-Webster's Word Central site includes a dictionary, thesaurus, games and daily buzzwords.

Listen to Audio Books

Share an audio book with your child in the car, which makes commuting and travel time pass quickly. Everything from classics such as Where the Red Fern Grows to the Harry Potter series is available on audio. Check your local library or bookstore. Remember, children can listen to books that are beyond their reading level, and you can pause an audio book to discuss an unfamiliar word. As a special bedtime treat, play a chapter of a book each night. Mastering new words does not have to be a dull assignment. When the whole family plays with words, children will build their vocabulary.  

More Vocabulary-Boosting Ideas

Looking for more ideas? Try out some of these fun tactics to get your children talking with the best of them:

Read Aloud. Make the time special by reading with an expressive voice and use accents. Also, let your children read aloud to you. Furthermore, some libraries like Linebaugh in Murfreesboro, host Reading PAWS sessions in which young kids can come in and practice their reading skills to friendly dogs.

Write Notes. Using vocabulary words, leave a special message under pillows or in lunchboxes. Likewise, encourage your child to write special notes for you that they can stick on the fridge or bathroom mirror. Provide a festive note pad and fun writing utensils for them.

Join a Reading Club. Check local bookstores to see if they sponsor a children's program. In addition, some area attractions like the Sam Davis Home in Smyrna host a monthly book club for young kids and older ones, while others like Historic Mansker's Station in Goodlettsville offer semester-long literature studies for homeschool students. Don't forget about local library storytimes — they provide a fun outing while helping boost your child's language skills.

Go Online. Make the Internet a positive resource for your kids by enrolling them in a free online reading program like Book Adventure. It's a reading motivation program for students in grades K – 8, where they can create their own book list from more than 6,000 titles. Plus sites like Fun Brain offer entertaining and educational games that help boost a child's reading and language aptitude.



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