Growing Your Child’s Vocabulary
Children’s imagination is powerful and surprising. It is able to create fantastic worlds and develop their abstract minds for hours. However, Charles Chaplin was right when he said “imagination means nothing without doing”. Imagination, per se, produces only dreams. If we want our dreams to turn into reality the first thing we need to do is to express them in an idea. And for that, we need words.
We often hear kids complaining that they are not able to express something they’re thinking, some dream they had or something they’ve learned. It is most frustrating for them (think about how hopeless you feel when you can’t make yourself understood in a foreign country), so increasing their vocabulary is important to improve their communication capacities and boost their self-esteem.
Also, a kid that can properly express himself will find it easier to understand his feelings and emotions. Those “something’s going on but I don’t know how to explain it” moments that all parents hear at least once start to decrease when their little brains are able to find the right words.
To help you with this, here you have three useful ideas:
1. Try to not scale down your language too much when you are talking to your kids: we don’t go by “vroom vroom”, we go by car. We don’t have a “woof woof”, we have a Bulldog. That is not “boo boo”, it “hurts”. Even if they sound adorable when they make mistakes or when they misplace words try to always correct them nicely.
2. When playing with them, try to broaden the stimuli you use instead of using “children only” material all the time. A good example is this website, for instance.
3. If your child can read don’t rush to explain to him the meaning of new words. Buy him a good dictionary and make him search for the definition. Forget the Internet. The slower process that comes with the physical search is more effective for remembering new word meanings.
And finally, a tool for you to try, the word jar.
Find a jar; (you can also use a box) and label it “words”. Every time your child comes in contact with a new word, make him write it on a piece of paper and put it inside the jar. You could also do this with the second language they are learning at school. Carry the jar with you on those occasions where you have to sit for long hours (at the doctors, when traveling…), or save it for a rainy day.
Ask your child to take out one word and to try to form a sentence with it. With practice words become familiar, and we can throw the learned slips of papers away and substitute them with new ones. Easy, fun and really effective.