How To Help Your Child Learn New Words

How To Help Your Child Learn New Words

It has been estimated that six year olds have a vocabulary of 14,000 words. That means that children aged between 18 months and six have to learn 8 new words a day. However, this can be a difficult task for some children and they will need more time and support to learn new words.

Children can have problems learning new words for a number of reasons, including:

  • Speech and Language difficulties, e.g. delayed ability to understand and use language.
  • Memory difficulties.
  • Attention and listening difficulties.
  • Learning difficulties.
  • Difficulties processing speech sounds, e.g. reduced ability to distinguish one speech sound from another and to sequence speech sounds in words, difficulty filtering out background noise in order to listen.
  • Limited exposure to language.

How can you help?

 Introduce a few words at a time and give the child lots of opportunities to hear the words and see what they mean.For example, if you are teaching the child vocabulary for clothes, you might:

  • name the clothes as you dress the child, e.g. “Trousers on! Arms up – t-shirt on!” etc.
  • name the same clothes again as you load or unload the washing machine, or hang them on the line, e.g. “Trousers in! T-shirt in!”
  • Dress a toy and name the clothes, e.g. “Trousers on teddy!”
  • Read a book with pictures of clothes in it and talk about the clothes.
  • Colour in pictures of clothes.
  • Cut out pictures of clothes to stick in a book or on a piece of paper.

It is important to go over words repeatedly to help the child learn them. They are unlikely to remember them if they only hear them once.

Start by working on simple words, e.g. Clothes: trousers, t-shirt, dress, jumper, etc.

When the child has learned these, talk about the parts of things. For example, trousers: pockets, zip, belt; coat: hood, arms, buttons, pockets, etc.

Use multi-sensory learning whenever possible. For example:

  • See it (use objects, real situations, pictures, etc.)
  • Hear it
  • Touch it
  • Smell it
  • Say it

With older children:

  • Read it
  • Write it

Teach verbs (doing words, e.g. walking, dancing, reading, eating) and adjectives (describing words, e.g. hot, tired, soft, hungry) as well as nouns (naming words, e.g. table, chair, sister, car).

Spend time talking about the words so that the child has lots of opportunities to hear the words and see what they mean before trying to get them to use the words.


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