The benefits of vocabulary building go way beyond writing fancy essays at school – in fact, this is a life-long learning process. A good repertoire of words, phrases and expressions can help children become better communicators and give them an edge over the rest in academics, careers and even relationships.
Scientific studies have established a definite link between vocabulary and mental acuity. Needless to say, the earlier you start the process, the better the results will be. Don’t assume that getting your kid to memorize five words from the dictionary every day is the best or only way to go about it.
If your kid is an enthusiastic reader, relax and let time take its course – but if not, you might have to think up some interactive and interesting ways to get him or her on the lexicon bandwagon.
Language-enhancing tools are all around you if you care to look. Why stick to the monotony of dictionaries and thesauri when they are so many fun ways to help your kid build up impressive word-power?
Vocabulary Building For Pre-Schoolers & Kindergarten (2- 5 Years)
• Nursery rhymes are great fun, and easy. The rhythmic quality helps children memorise words and use them in an appropriate context. Pick up a random word like ‘spout’ out of ‘Itsy-bitsy spider went up the garden spout’ and explain the meaning, using verbal descriptions and visual cues whenever possible.
• Make an extra effort to help your child identify and relate to objects as well as emotions. Point out to objects in the vicinity and speak out the word in a manner that lets the child register and repeat it. Use facial expressions and gestures to explain ‘laughing’, ‘angry’, ‘frown’, ‘wave’, ‘clap’, etc. Try to use synonyms and antonyms when applicable.
• Picture books are a great way to expose your child to things that are not commonly seen in everyday surroundings. By identifying animals, shapes, colours, vehicles, furniture, occupations and clothing items, picture books have a lot to offer. Pick colourful, glossy ones to keep your kid hooked.
• Read-aloud story sessions at bedtime are good opportunities to slip in some cool words every now and then. Whenever you come across a difficult or unusual word, discuss it with your child and prompt her to use it in a context or sentence. You may even pick a simple word and relate it to a more difficult synonym.
• Avoid using over-simplified language and baby talk with young children, and lace your conversations with occasional complex words. In most cases, kids are able to infer meanings based on contextual cues, or else they will ask you about it.
Vocabulary Building For Juniors (6 – 10 Years)
• Once children start reading independently, it is a good idea to introduce them to a basic dictionary. Encourage them to underline or highlight any new words that they come across, and to look them up once they are done with a particular chapter or story. This teaches them the meaning of words and also illustrates how they have been used in a particular context or situation. Once this becomes a habit, your kid is on the right track.
• TV is not such a wicked thing if you learn how to make it work for you. Kids are quick to pick up words and expressions along with the correct pronunciation from cartoons, sitcoms and movies. Filter out the ones that are not appropriate and give your kid an hour or two everyday to soak in the lingo. Once a child gets the hang of the language, a rich vocabulary will automatically follow.
• Kids love tongue twisters and store new words in their vocabulary when they practice them repeatedly. If your child seems keen, encourage her to make up her own tongue twister.
• As a pass-time activity, give children a set of 8-10 letters to work with and see how many words they can make out of the bunch.
• Play a game involving words that go together – take a word and urge your child to come up with as many phrases involving it in the shortest possible time. For instance, ‘rain’ could be made into ‘raincoat’, ‘rain dance’, ‘rainbow’ and so on. This makes for a great group activity and you could play a similar game with rhyming words too.
Vocabulary Building For Seniors (11-16)
• Word games work amazingly well. Challenge your kid to a game of Scrabble or to crack a crossword puzzle together whenever you can spare some time. Most dailies carry a corner with mind-ticklers like Jumble that are easy to get addicted to.
• Encourage your child to read a little on a daily basis. Reader’s Digest has a regular page called ‘Word Power’ which is a superb source of vocabulary for older children and adults too.
• Not only literary classics – any text including magazines and comics can help your kid pick up new words, phrases and expressions. Comics and television programs are especially useful in developing colloquial vocabulary. Language is a dynamic entity, and it is important to keep up with the latest norms and trends. Bookish English lasts only so long as your child is in school – slang is what rules the real outside.
• When faced with a new word, advise your child to first try and decipher the meaning based on the context, the words around it and the general theme of the text before flipping through a dictionary. While checking out the word in the dictionary, pay heed to the source, etymology and the pronunciation of the word and then ask your child to attempt forming a sentence out of it. This helps boost the word’s recall value, and the child is more likely to use it in day-to-day writing and communication.
• If you are actively involved in your child’s schoolwork (and you should be), go through her writing assignments like essays and stories. Show her how to use a thesaurus and prompt her to replace random words in the text with synonyms that fit in and sound better without diluting the original essence of the text. For instance, ‘intimidating’ could be a better alternative to ‘difficult’.
Finally, teach your child that while it is great to possess the vocabulary of a lexicon, it is equally important to use the proper words at the proper places without seeking to impress or show off.
© Shuchi Kalra
Shuchi Kalra is a freelance writer based in India. Her works have been published several online and print publications- both in India and abroad. She also writes content for websites, businesses and portals. She is currently working on a short-story anthology.
This article may be reprinted with the complete author bio and a live link back to http://www.lovingyourchild.com
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