Articles and Advice

What can I do to help my child develop a rich vocabulary?

Dear RIF: What can I do to help my son develop a rich vocabulary?


Baby talkWhether you’re a parent or caregiver, you play a significant role in supporting your child’s language development. Research shows that young children develop language and emerging literacy skills through conversations.

By talking to your son and encouraging him to talk, you are teaching him the basics of language—such as phonetics, vocabulary, and grammar. These basics are the foundation on which he can build the more complex literacy of reading and writing.

Below are a few to engage young children in fun and meaningful conversations:


orange bullet  Use your normal language style. You don't have to simplify your vocabulary when talking with a young child. Babies will soon catch on to the meaning of new words and add the words to her or his own vocabulary.


orange bullet  Recognize a child's mistakes as signs of progress. Children often make mistakes in grammar and pronunciation because they are constructing their own knowledge about language. They may have figured out a rule, but don't know all the exceptions. When responding to children, simply restate the words in standard format.

For example, if the child says "I goed to the shoe store yesterday", respond with,  "What did you do when you went to the shoe store?"


orange bullet  Keep the conversation going. Respond to children's phrases and simple sentences by answering in longer sentence patterns.

For example, Jacey said, "I like pizza." Mr. Luis responded, "I like pizza too. My favorite part of the pizza is the melted cheese on top. What do you like best about pizza?"


orange bullet  Be a patient listener. It's typical for young children to ramble while telling a story or sharing an idea.


orange bullet  Give children something to talk about.  Provide interesting experiences in as many environments as possible, and as often as possible. Take a walk in the neighborhood. Catch snowflakes on your tongues. Examine a mysterious object.


orange bullet  Dress up as a familiar character. Play a guessing game with your child. Ask questions such as: "What do I do?" "Where do I live?" "Who do I play with?" "Who am I?"


Advice for New Parents


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