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5 easy ways to build your toddler’s vocabulary

Our son has finally taken a giant leap with his speech development.

He is a sponge ready to soak up, repeat and remember every word he sees and everything he experiences.

It’s an exciting time in his development and I want to do everything I can to expose him to a language-rich world and encourage him to increase his vocabulary on a daily basis.

But how do you do it? How do you build up a child’s vocabulary?

Here are my top teacher tips!

5 easy ways to increase your toddler’s vocabulary

1. Don’t shy away from ‘big’ words!

It can be so easy to think, “my child won’t know how to say python, so I’ll just say snake” but children can absorb more than you think. Even if they don’t say it correctly just yet, it will come in time and they will already have the word knowledge to back it up.

So don’t shy away from long or ‘big’ words. If they ask you what you’re doing and you know it’s too complicated for them to understand, tell them anyway! And try not to simplify too much. Language exposure is the key!

2. Pick the right books.

Picture story books that are filled with photos and words are fantastic for building up word knowledge. Take a trip to the library and choose a few good children’s picture books based on your child’s interests. Before you know it they won’t just know what a ‘bird’ is, but they will be able to identify toucans, eagles, budgies and more.

3. Get Going!

Photos in books are fantastic, no doubt. They expose children to a world they may not be able to necessarily experience. But drawing on real life experience is something that can’t be replicated – taking trips to the beach, library, park, zoo or even just a walk down the street can expose children to a rich language environment.

Talk about everything you see and do and when you get home, don’t let the experience end there! Encourage your child to tell others what they did in their day or put it in a photo book to draw upon later.

4. Play Games.

Games like Simon Says and treasure hunts are a great way to help a child learn instructional language, as well as prepositions (location words) like behind, around, under, over etc.

Now that the sun is shining I can’t wait to expose my little one to his first treasure hunt. It can be something as simple chocolate coins or a piece of costume jewellery hidden in the backyard.

5. Talk AND listen.

I need to remind myself of this one sometimes. Especially if I’m trying to get through a day on little or no sleep. But you are your child’s best model.

Always talk and describe when you can. And don’t forget to listen to what they have to say too. If they pronounce a word wrong don’t scold or be negative. The best way to encourage them to repeat it correctly is to repeat it back to them, “Yes, you can have your water” for example.

Image credit: yarruta/123RF Stock Photo

How to increase a child's vocabulary

About Angela East

Angela is a writer, a former primary school teacher and a mum of two.

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