According to experts, a child completes 80% of her learning between the ages of 0 to 4 years. It is during this time that she learns to connect words with her thoughts and feelings. In fact at 18 months of age, your little one can master as many as 200 words! And the richer her vocabulary, the more likely it is that she will be able to effectively communicate how she feels and what she has observes. All of this, in turn, will make her more confident. Studies across the world have linked a rich vocabulary with better performance at school and better inter-personal skills among children.
Try these fun methods to help your child build her vocabulary, bit by bit, every day. And before you know you will have your very own budding wordsmith!
New experiences: Your child doesn't need to sit with a big pile of books in order to learn new words and how to use them. Every experience is an opportunity to add to their vocabulary. So if you take your child to the zoo, you've just opened up a whole new set of words for your child to pick up from: enclosures, carnivores, herbivores, amphibians… The list is endless. Experiencing a word will make sure that she understands as well as retains it.
Start conversations: Which doesn't mean you need to set aside special time and select topics to talk to your child about. Dinnertime is a perfect opportunity. Ask your child random things like how she feels about going on a holiday, where she'd like to go and what she'd like to see. Simpler still, invite her to the kitchen when you're cooking and discuss the recipe and her favourite flavours with her. Not only will her vocabulary increase, she will be more involved in her food.
Set a goal: By saying set a goal we don't mean you need to make an organisational chart to meet those goals! What we mean is, decide on the number of words you want to introduce to her in a day (3 to 4 is a good target) and then spread them over the course of the day. Even time-outs can be used to slip in a new word expressing how upset you are with her behaviour. Later you can explain what you meant. It will be effortless, and for all you know the next time she is upset with you she may just use the word back at you!
Encourage journal writing: This not only helps children share what's on their minds but also makes them more confident with the words they use every day. You can help your child write out the best and the most disappointing thing about the day every evening, and also share what she is planning for the next day. Soon you can graduate to short imaginary story-writing.
Read, read and read: There is no substitute to reading when it comes to building a child's vocabulary. It helps fluency, comprehension and conversation skills. Carve out time to read together everyday. Over time you can inculcate the habit of news reading for a minute each day, depending on her area of interest.
But the most important thing to remember is that don't go overboard with anything. Instead, focus on making the learning process casual and fun; that way your child is more likely to reciprocate with eagerness to learn more.