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Building Your Child’s Vocabulary

by Ronald A. Rowe | May 31st, 2010 | Elementary

I remember one of the many concerns I had when my first child was born. I was gravely concerned because I didn’t know how to teach him to talk. I had a grasp on how I’d teach him to walk, to play baseball, to treat a lady – but I had no earthly idea how I was supposed to teach him to talk.

I soon found out, as any parent knows – there’s nothing to it. Kids just learn to talk by listening to their parents talk. You don’t have to do much of anything. Despite my best efforts to teach him to say “Dada”, both my children said “Momma” first, followed by “Dada”, then “Cookie” for the first son and “Brother” for the second.

I don’t know if it is because it is so easy to teach them to talk or most parents just don’t think about it, but many well-intentioned parents just stop working to develop their child’s vocabulary right after ‘dada’. They say what they say and they learn as they go.

But building your child’s vocabulary is easier than it might seem. Just as teaching them their first words just came naturally, you can boost your child’s vocabulary beyond their peers without much effort at all.

First – encourage your child to read, especially if you can interest them in reading above their grade level. If he is excited about what he’s reading, he’ll want to figure out those words he doesn’t know. Reading new words in context automatically gives him many answers. If he’s intrigued by the book, he’ll ask about the words he can’t figure out for himself.

Second – Answer your child’s questions. It makes me sad to hear so many parents brush off their child’s questions. If she wants to know what a gelding is, stop what you’re doing and explain it to her. Whatever else you’re talking about can wait long enough to give her a 20-second answer.

Third – Expand your own vocabulary. Kids copy what they hear, good or bad. If your child hears you using a robust vocabulary, he or she will want to do the same.

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