Kids with a rich vocabulary do better in school. The more words kids have at their disposal, the better they are at expressing their thoughts, opinions, beliefs and feelings.
Here are some fun vocabulary tips that can help your kids grow their word skills.
1. Keep reading. Indulge children’s natural interest in new things. As you read together, stop occasionally to explain unfamiliar words or to help figure out their meaning by their context, by accompanying pictures, by their roots or by their prefixes and suffixes. No lessons, just a conversation.
2. Reward often. When they correctly use a word you’ve discussed or read together, reward them with praise. Kids love to be successful and feel accomplished, just like us.
3. Create a word wall. Make lists of words you’ve learned together. Write them in your “new words” journal. Make a “chain” of words out of construction paper and drape them around the room.
4. Use the words. Now that you’ve learned new words with your children, use them often and remember to praise kids for using them too.
5. Play. Have fun! Play word games, do crossword puzzles or word searches and compete in low-stress family spelling bees. Get a laugh out of tongue twisters. (“The skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk. But the stump thunk the skunk stunk.” Or, “She stood at the door of Mrs. Smith’s fish sauce shop welcoming him in.”)
6. Create themes. Possible themes include sports, superheroes, amusement park rides or favorite hobbies. Learn as many new words about the theme as possible.
7. Have a silly, secret signal. Use it every time kids hear an unfamiliar word. Widened eyes and a finger alongside the nose, perhaps?
8. Write new words in unorthodox ways. Write them in sand or whipped cream. Write them with alphabet soup. Write them with spaghetti. Write them with Play Doh.
9. Make “word art.” Use crayons, watercolors and stamp-pad ink. Make a collage of words and cutout pictures. Paste buttons, pasta, sparkles or flower petals on construction paper in the shape of new words. Make flashcards of these new words and have “word sprints” to see how many they can remember in a one-minute period.
10. Get moving. Teach the spelling of the new words by rhythm. Jump rope or hop really high as kids spell new words. This is good for kids who have a hard time sitting still.
11. Sing songs. Make up funny songs about the new words. We all remember better with music. (Admit it – you still sing the alphabet song when you have to look something up.)
Of course when kids hear us adults using the best words for the right occasion, they’re inspired to do the same. We don’t have to overdo it and sound artificial or stodgy, but it’s always evident when people sound like they know what they’re talking about and even when they don’t.