There are two ways to think about word knowledge: first, how vocabulary grows, and second, how it deepens. Both aspects of vocabulary development are critical to the ability to use, act on, and expand children's language knowledge base. You can help your child's vocabulary grow:
- Increase your child's exposure to, and interaction with, language. The more words a child hears, the more words he will learn and use. This can be easily overlooked, but it's significant. It's important to have as many conversations as possible with your child during the day. You can describe the colors and features of her clothes as you dress or you can name the foods in the supermarket as you take them off the shelf. If you "think aloud" or talk with your child about what you are doing and why, you will be inviting her into some wonderful language-building chats.
- Embed new words in familiar contexts. Young children love patterns and routines, which enable them to successfully predict what will happen next and to experiment with variations of what they already know. By purposefully introducing new words, you can increase your child's active speaking repertoire. For example, in the very familiar setting of your kitchen, you can whisk eggs, use a serving spoon, and test temperature with a thermometer.
- Expose children to intriguing words. Young children love the sound of long and seemingly difficult words. Your child might suddenly blurt out that her friend's behavior is "ridiculous" or that the baby's diaper is "saturated." These instances of surprisingly sophisticated language use come from children's attention to, and interest in, the way adults use words to express precise feelings and reactions. So don't shy away from using words you think are over your child's head; instead, use them as part of your natural conversation and children will gradually pick up on their meanings.
- the concepts a word represents
- multiple meanings of a word
- associations the word evokes
- how a word is used in
- conjunction with other words
- grammar (how a word behaves in a sentence)
- other words that sound like it