Vocabulary Development with Kids

Conversations | Sidestep the Summer Slide

By Hilda Stevens of Successful Innovations, Inc.

You can help to increase your child’s speaking and listening vocabulary by engaging in daily conversations. Research has shown that the more words a child hears by the age of two, the better his/her vocabulary will be.  Here are a few things that you can do at home to help increase your child’s understanding of words in our language.

  1. Encourage your child to talk with you.  You can engage your child in a conversation at the end of the day by asking questions like:  How was your day?  What fun things did you do today?  Tell me about the books you read today or about the school project you are working on.
  2. Let your child guide the conversation.  Have your child initiate the topic for discussion. Encourage him to talk about his favorite toy or game.   If your child knows that you are interested in listening to him, he will be more willing to share ideas or experiences with you.
  3. Use correct grammar when engaging your child in conversation.  Don’t try to correct your child, but rather, respond with the correct usage of grammar by turning a statement into a question.  If your child says, “I ain’t got the right book to do my homework.”  You can respond by saying, “You don’t have the right book for homework?”  You can model for your child the correct grammar without making him feel uncomfortable talking with you.
  4. Teach your child a new word everyday.  You can select vocabulary words that can be used frequently during the day.  The more practice given to the use of a word, the better chance that word will become a part of your child’s regular vocabulary.  Some word choices might be:  great or elegant instead of good; completed or finished instead of done.  Try using elaborate descriptive words and your child will begin to mimic you, too.  You can keep a “word log” and record the word of the day.  Have your child keep tally marks for the word usage.  At the end of the week, review the words learned and have your child select his/her favorite new word.
  5. Play listening games where your child will have to use “his words” to describe what he hears.  Tell your child to close his eyes and listen to the sounds around him.  Can he identify what is making the sound by describing the source?  What is making that sound?  Tell me what it looks like and sounds like from your mind’s eye?  Your child will need to picture the item in his mind and then describe it with his vocabulary words.  This could be a quiet game to try when sitting down in the evening before going to bed.


Take advantage of the time you have with your child to engage in rich conversations that will develop skills for speaking and listening.  By enriching your child with vocabulary development, you are helping your child gain the language skills necessary for reading and writing.


Hilda Stevens is co-founder and lead national educational consultant for Successful Innovations, Inc.. She has experience consulting and leading professional development workshops at the state and national levels. As a former Virginia educator with over 30 years of public school experience, Mrs. Stevens has had extensive training in Response to Intervention Strategies, Literacy Coaching, and Differentiated Instruction

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