Creative Parenting Tips: How To Expand Your Child’s Vocabulary

Creative Tips in Parenting:

Post By Guest Contributor Courtney Frey

How To Expand your Child’s Vocabulary

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1.)  Know your child’s interests and don’t limit them. 

Time spent in discovery with them will build the foundation for their thirst for knowledge and increase their confidence.

His eyes squint at the small print, and before even attempting to read he says, “These words are too big, I don’t know them.”  Moving onto my side so that I can face him I say, “You don’t have to know them honey, let’s just sound them out one at a time.”

Every night for a month Brandin and I lay side by side in his bottom bunk cuddled up in this 101 Dalmation blanket against the soft light of a nearby lamp discovering the adventure of Robinson Crusoe. As we finished the last page, Brandin didn’t even realize that over time, he had learned to read and, to read very well, in fact.  He had become lost in the story and by his desire to know what was going to happen after each page, had begun to know the words because of the way the author wrote, and not because he knew what each one meant alone.  He was reading with an articulation even I had been stunned to hear after several weeks, and barely even able to believe it myself, my son discovered that not only could he read, but he wanted too.

I received a phone call from his third grade teacher one afternoon, and she informed me that Brandin had been telling other students that he had read Robinson Crusoe.  She wanted me to “have a talk” with Brandin about telling the truth, and that while she encouraged a healthy imagination, she wanted me to know about the tall tale’s he was spilling.  Especially the one about how an author from hundreds of years ago had written a whole novel just about him.  Tears were spilling from my eyes, and I couldn’t begin to imagine that I would ever be so proud of my son but also be so deeply connected to him.  I laughed into the phone and responded, “He did read Robinson Crusoe.  I’ll send the book to school with him tomorrow and you can ask him to share his favorite excerpt.  He’s quite the reader, if you should want to find out.”

2.)     Never tell your children the meaning of a word.

Since a very young age we have had Webster Dictionary’s easily accessible throughout my home.  Even when my children were just toddlers and they did not understand a word, I taught them how to look it up.  Over coffee with a girlfriend one day during a play date my youngest, Samantha, who was only four years old at the time pipes up from her dolls and asks, “What’s extrovert mean Mommy?”

My girlfriend was shocked when I instructed my daughter to get the dictionary and find the “E” words.  From there, I helped her locate the word.  I explained that the word was a noun to which she replied, “Person, place, or thing,” and we went on to discuss the meaning to which she responded, “I am that word.”

Samantha is now 14 and has quite the broad vocabulary, so much so in fact, that we have had an ongoing “challenge” which she seems to be winning at this point.  In our shower, we have a writing pad that is waterproof and every day we put up new words for one another to define.  Seeing as how we are in the shower, we cannot have access to cheating.  She has a running tally of beating me, not only with knowing the definitions of words but with knowing, it seems, more words than even I do.

If you allow your children to seek out the definitions of words on their own they will not only take ownership of their vocabulary, but be better able to apply those words in reference.  Their confidence will boost!

3.)  Teach your children to express themselves through writing.

One of the easiest tricks of the trade in helping my children to expand their vocabulary is to allow them to “talk” to me while I “write” what they say.   When my son was just a little boy (He is now a 6’2″ 225 pound United States Army National Guard soldier), he was frustrated with being the only boy and also being a middle child.  He struggled to communicate his feelings, to find the right words.

So, one day we sat down with a bag of Oreo cookies and I asked him to tell me what it meant to only have sisters, and what he liked about his sisters.  I didn’t tell him what I was doing with the paper and pencil, and before I knew it he was saying things like, “I don’t like when Sam steals my toys Mom,” and, “Sometimes I have to tell Amanda to not be so mean.”  As he talked to me in conversation, I wrote his words down.  When it was over, I re-arranged his sentences and crafted them into a poem called, “Oreo:  The Good Stuff in the Middle.”

My son listened to me read it to him and smiling wide said, “Those are my words!”  I hugged him, with pride and told him, “Yes, you are a very good writer son.”  That poem was read in schools in Colorado Springs to many different elementary classrooms, with Brandin at the helm passing out cookies to students, soaking up his pride that even despite it being hard sometimes to be the only boy and the middle child … he was a very good writer.

As my children grew, and handed me school papers and essay’s and speeches (both of my children have been Class President four years running), we’ve continued in the tradition of utilizing the dictionary and “talking” through the writing.

4.)   Play word games often!

One of our favorite games is Balderdash.  However, we don’t use the actual board game, but instead we cut up pieces of paper and each of us has a dictionary in hand.  Each person takes a turn to find a word in the dictionary that no one else knows, and the person who gets the most votes for their own authentic definition wins.  To this day, we have one of those pieces of paper taped to our refrigerator from my son, Brandin, when he was only twelve years old.  The word:  Edentate. His definition:  Two boys going fishing.  Ed and Tate.

If you ask my son what that word means, even six years later he can use it in a sentence. Incorporate fun in your children’s learning!

Published By Cyril P Abraham

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