Develop a Strong Vocabulary


As your child absorbs words, both written and spoken, their vocabulary grows. Beginning with a young one understanding the meanings of basic words such as dog or chair, to a teenager familiar with the definitions of escalate or tangible; increasing vocabulary allows your child to navigate the world around them. There are plenty of fun and effective ways to strengthen your child’s vocabulary.


Step 1 – Read
One of the most important things your child can do to build vocabulary is to read. Anything your child reads—from books to graphic novels to magazines—exposes them to words of varying complexities.

For a beginning reader, picture books with only a few words on each page are beneficial to help him make connections between words and the objects they represent. The more he reads, the more vocabulary he will retain. As your young child becomes a confident reader, he can read books that may still have pictures but contain complete sentences and have an increased word count. The more words, the more opportunities to fine tune and expand vocabulary.

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Eventually, your child will be reading books that only contain text. They’ll be even more immersed in building their ability to navigate through content with familiar and unfamiliar words. Over time, they will also develop the ability to use context clues to determine meanings of new words.

Step 2 – Definitions and sentences
Encourage your child to write a vocabulary list of unfamiliar words they encounter when reading. Rather than providing them with each word’s meaning, ask them to use a dictionary to find their definitions. Have them create their own vocabulary notebook where they can write words, parts of speech, and definitions to reference. Take the activity a step further by asking them to create sentences using the new words, as this will help them retain their meanings and how to properly use them.

To motivate your child with this activity, have them set a goal to read enough to learn a certain number of new vocabulary words each week. On weeks that they reach their goal, they can earn a small reward, such as a special dessert or a few extra minutes of free time before bed.

Step 3 – Word wall
At any stage in your child’s reading and vocabulary development, creating a word wall is a beneficial resource. The word wall should be formed using the terms in his vocabulary notebook.

Every day, they can look at the word wall to be reminded of the new words they have learned. They can even make a conscious effort to incorporate their new vocabulary into conversations and writing.

The word wall can be created in multiple ways.

  1.  Your child can continually add to their list of new vocabulary on poster paper.
  2. They can write each word on an individual index card or sticky note to stick to the wall.
  3. They can add and remove terms on a dry erase board.

Step 4 – Matching game
To further assist in growing your child’s vocabulary, they can play a matching game using their new vocabulary terms.
Gather double the number of index cards as there are vocabulary words. Write a word on one card and its definition on another.  Put all the cards in a pile and shuffle them. Place each card down with the blank side showing. If there are 10 terms, that makes for 20 cards, so they can place the cards in a grid of four by five.

Your child will turn over one card and try to find its matching word or definition. This activity allows them to enhance their vocabulary skills and strengthen their memory when recalling where each card is located. This game can be played infinite times with any number of words.



Having an ever-growing vocabulary will serve your child well as a reader, a writer, and a speaker. The more words your child is familiar with, the more tools they will have in their toolbox to help decode the meanings of new terms they encounter when reading.  A child with a strong vocabulary will be able to face any text with confidence. Your child will use context clues, based on words they know, to uncover the definitions of unfamiliar words. The stronger their vocabulary, the more equipped they will be to understand the content they are reading, which will improve their reading comprehension skills.

When your child is writing, anything from an essay to a short story, a strong vocabulary will bring the content to life. The more diverse your child’s vocabulary, the more successful they will be at incorporating variety into the writing. Your child will have the resources to create writing with assorted sentences that are clear and interesting to its readers.

Just as having a vast vocabulary benefits your child’s writing, it will also help in their ability as a speaker.  In conversations, they will understand the topics being discussed. When giving speeches, they will keep their audience captivated with a variety of phrases that relate to their message.

Your child’s skills as a reader, writer, and speaker will continue to grow throughout their adult years as they constantly absorb new vocabulary terms.