The importance of vocabulary

Imagine your life for one day if your vocabulary were limited to only the basic words. It is easy to picture simple interactions with others, but imagine how limited your life would be. The voice inside your head might only have enough words to describe basic feelings and ideas. Your ability to read or to have meaningful conversations with others would be reduced. Your world would suddenly become very small.

Every time a young child learns a new word, his or her world expands. Vocabulary development is directly connected to a child’s ability to think, follow directions, express thoughts, and navigate social interactions. Children with rich vocabularies become better readers and stronger communicators during the school age years and beyond.

Since most of the foundation for language development is substantially established by eight years of age, helping very young children develop a rich vocabulary is especially important. Even before you hear your child’s first word, it is important to actively support language development as soon as your child is born and help build a rich vocabulary and the foundation for your child’s future language and literacy skills. Follow these tips to help your child become a word-learning whiz.

  • BE RESPONSIVE. Respond to your child’s earliest noises and gestures. Cooing, laughing, grunting, and pointing are all opportunities to teach your child the back and forth of conversation.
  • GIVE IT A NAME. Become a living, breathing book of first words as you name objects and actions in your child’s world. “That’s a bird! The bird is flying in the sky.”
  • NARRATE THE DAY. Think of yourself as a sports commentator, and give your child the play by play. Talk about what you are doing as you do it and describe your child’s actions as well.
  • READ, READ, READ! Read aloud to your child every day, starting at birth. As your child grows, encourage interactions with books by pointing to pictures, asking and answering questions, and talking about the story.
  • USE GROWN-UP WORDS. Don’t be afraid to use big words around your young child. Their lunch is more than just yummy; it is delicious, scrumptious and delectable!
  • MIX IT UP! A trip to a museum, a visit to grandma’s house, and a walk in freshly fallen snow are all opportunities to introduce new language to your child. Give your child new experiences whenever possible, and talk about everything you do!