You can easily help your child improve his/her vocabulary.  When you help your child, think of vocabulary as being either receptive (what your child understands) or expressive (what your child uses).  When you use specific words, your goal is to help your child build his/her word knowledge. When you ask your child to name objects, your goal is to help him/her build his repertoire of words that he/she can use to express him/herself.  Below are suggestions for vocabulary building.

Receptive Vocabulary

  • When you visit the supermarket, name each item as you put it in the cart.
  • When driving in the car with your child, name what you see such as traffic light, stop sign, median, etc.
  • Offer a synonym for a word your child has used. For instance, if your child says, “That car is red,” you can reply with, “Yes, that automobile is red.”
  • When cooking, place the utensils you will be using on the counter. Ask your child to help you out by handing you the utensil you need when you ask for it (“Please give me the spatula.”)
  • When you use tools to fix something, ask your child to hand you the tool you need.
  • Talk about the weather. Use descriptive words like cloudy, overcast, rainy, foggy, humid, etc.
  • Books are great vocabulary building tools. When looking at a book with your child, use descriptive words, like enormous, excited, quickly, etc. in addition to nouns and verbs.

Expressive Vocabulary

  • When you visit the supermarket, ask the child to take inventory of items you put in the cart.
  • Play “Think of Another Word.” You say a word and your child has to come up with another word that means the same. For example, you say, “Unhappy,” and your child tries to come up with “sad.” If he/she struggles, offer the word “sad,” and a few minutes later try again with your original word.
  • When cooking, ask the child to tell you what utensil you are using.
  • When fixing something, as the child to tell you what tool you are using.
  • Name a few items in a category and ask your child to name the category (“Pants, shirt, sock and shoes—-what are they?”).
  • Ask your child to tell you what the weather is like outside.
  • Point to pictures in a book and ask your child to name them. Then prompt your child to use descriptive words by saying things like, “How does she look? How does he feel?”).