Fort Worth, Texas,
16:47 PM

5 Ways Parents Can Improve Their Child's Vocabulary

The 'This' and 'That' of Improving Your Child's Language

The other day I went on vacation. We went over THERE. I enjoyed it because we did THIS and THAT. There was one activity where my son caught the THING and did THIS to it. We couldn’t stop laughing, but eventually we helped him get THAT over THERE. Unfortunately my daughter will be too young to remember our trip over THERE.

My question to you is...what in the world am I talking about? Our children’s vocabulary is very important, and if we use words such as “this” and “that,” we lose out on opportunities to teach our kids new words. I took a course recently that said that children between the ages of 4 and 5 demonstrate the most significant growth in vocabularies.

A child the age of 4 has a vocabulary of about 1,200 words, but a child the age of 5 has a vocabulary of 5,000 words. That is a HUGE growth in words.

Your child's vocabulary is so important. Think of each skill your child develops as building blocks. Starting from infancy, your child begins by cooing, which turns into babbling that then turns into words and eventually sentences. Research shows that children with higher vocabulary results in better decoding abilities. All that to say that their reading skills will benefit from having better vocabulary.

So what can I do to help my child?

1.Be specific when talking to your children. If I changed the story above to something more like this, it would all make sense…..

The other day I went on vacation. We went to South Padre Island. I enjoyed it because we went parasailing and fishing. My son caught a fish but his line got tangled with someone else’s. We couldn’t stop laughing, but eventually we helped him untangle the line and get it on the boat.

Now isn’t that so much better.

2. Try teaching your child new words or even different variations of the same word. For example: “The elephant is big” can turn into “The elephant is gigantic.” or even “The elephant is enormous.”

3. Use the same word in many different ways. Think about the word “run." The dog ran fast. I ran next to him, but I could not run as fast. My brother tried to run, but he fell down. After I ran, I was really tired. Running is fun.

4 .Make learning new words fun. Instead of doing flash cards (snooze), find something that is interesting to your child and think of words based on the activity. If your child likes playing with farm animals, think of several words you could teach your child involving farm animals. As you play, introduce those words you wrote down.

5. Read books to your child. Books offer so many new and wonderful opportunities for learning words. You don’t have to necessarily read all the words, just talk about the pictures. Try thinking of words you can use multiple times throughout the book.

Vocabulary development is critical for children. It helps with building sentences and it’s important for reading as well. Markus Zusak put it well when he said, “The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this."

Get to know Jonathan Suarez

Jonathan Suarez is a speech pathologist at Cook Children's. Speech/language pathologists focus on oral motor, speech, language and communication skills to enhance development, restore function and to prevent disability from pediatric conditions, illness or injury. 

Evaluation, treatment and home programming are available for children with:

  • Feeding and swallowing disorders
  • Articulation, voice, resonance and fluency disorders
  • Receptive and expressive language disorders
  • Aural rehabilitation/ auditory verbal therapy for hearing loss or cochlear implant
  • Evaluation for augmentative communication devices

To learn more about making an appointment, click here, or call 682-885-4063.

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