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How To Increase Your Child's Vocabulary

Do you have a pointer? Do you have a grunter? Do you have a child that will use anything at their disposal to get what they want excluding words? Continue on, as there are things that you can do to increase your child's verbal communication.

It can be very frustrating trying to communicate with a child who gives you a blank stare in response, but parents, caregivers and older siblings have faith. There are things that you can do to get the “little one” talking. It is going to require your time and patience, but language is a powerful tool. Realize that in your child’s first 12 months of life, the foundation for his language was established. From that point forward, children hear hundreds of words. They have a better understanding of what they hear than what they can express. Even infants are aware of the sounds around them. What your child hears and understands is called Receptive Language. How they use the language is Expressive Language.

Here is a list of some key milestones that should be evident at age 3:

  • Understands the 5Ws – who, what, where, when, why and how

  • Forms sentences using 5 or more words

  • Retells past events

  • Tells a simple story

  • Shows affection to playmates

  • Engages in imaginative play and multi-step play

  • Is understood by people outside of the family

  • Is aware of the function of print

  • Has a beginning sense and awareness of rhyme.

By age 3, a child’s communication skills should be taking off. Your child now understands one thousand words or more and they need to be continuously exposed to further vocabulary, acquiring up to 2000 additional words. Children at this age have the capability to learn 5 – 6 new words a day. These new words are introduced to children on a daily bases through your conversations with them and dialogue around them as well. You should try to include descriptive words, nouns, number words, locations, action words, emotions, names of toys and family members, and connectors such as: and, because, but, and if. and ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS.

If you feel your child is missing on one or more of the above milestones or simply just want to stay on top of it, here are some ideas to help build your child’s vocabulary:

  • Provide sensory activities and get them to draw – chalk, paint, markers, finger paints, crayons etc. and have them tell you about their picture.

  • When you are with your child use descriptive words to describe their art or activity, comparing it to other pictures or activities to spot the differences can be fun for the both of you.

  • Get them to share their ideas and ask questions so they can go into further detail

  • Give them choices when appropriate, and ask them to tell you which one they would like before receiving it.

  • There's nothing wrong with a little down time, just choose TV shows and movies wisely, Treehouse and other kids networks can expose your child to different animals, environments and cultures we might not be able to easily access.

  • Remember that you are their mentor and role model, pronouncing words properly and speaking to children in a mature tone can be crucial for their development.

  • READ! Even just a simple bedtime story can spark a world of imagination for them

  • Play and pretend! The dialogue is imperative.

  • Even if your child is shy, encourage them to answer questions on their own.

  • Peer settings are extremely important. It is amazing the amount of language a child learns by interacting with their peers, they almost appear to absorb it.

You will definitely need patience and perseverance, but hold steady and fast. Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Am I enabling the behaviour?

  • Do I expect them to verbalize?

  • Do I run out of time and patience?

Don’t give into the whining, the grunting or tantrums. You want your child to have developed communication skills to play at school, have friends, to learn and then start to read and write. Remember language is a necessity. Communication is a huge factor in your child’s future success. You as the parent, have a responsibility to build your child’s communication skills. Talk, listen and play!


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