Baby Hints & Tips

Why you should expand your toddler’s vocabulary

Has your toddler started to string words together to make cute little sentences? Here’s why now is the perfect time to expand your toddler’s vocabulary.

Any parent of a child in kindergarten will tell you that they don’t know where the time went – how did they go from being a helpless little baby to a child learning to read and write? But did you know that one of the keys to unlocking reading skills and comprehension is expanding your toddler’s vocabulary? Here’s why it’s important to speak to your baby and toddler and use an extended vocabulary.

The more words we know, the better we learn and understand

One of the long-standing conclusions in early educational research is that the more words kids know, the stronger their reading comprehension. One of the key skills our children need to learn is how to read for meaning. It’s one thing to be able to read a sentence word for word with accuracy, but did they comprehend what they just read?

Having an extensive vocabulary is going to help with their reading knowledge in the future.

Expand your toddler's vocabulary

There are six components of reading

These are the things that will come together to help a child when it comes to learning to read. Prior knowledge or experience on the subject, comprehension, phonemic awareness such as rhyming words and recognising sounds, phonics which is knowing letters and the sounds they make, vocabulary and fluency.

There are a number of markers that teachers will look for when testing a child’s reading ability including all of the above. Are they using the correct phonic sounds? Are they understanding what they just read? Can they read the story with speed, accuracy and tone?

Learning to read can be frustrating for both the parent and the child, but if you focus on building their vocabulary – they will be able to preempt words in literature based on their knowledge of how a sentence should be structured.

How can I build my baby or toddler’s vocabulary?

According to Chris Hogan, an extension and learning support teacher, there are many ways to help expand your child’s vocabulary.

“Read to, and with, your child often. Have fun telling stories. Enjoy jokes with your child.  Take time to explain and ask questions. Solve problems together. Try prompting your child’s own contributions with open-ended questions (who, what, why, how) which extend and add structure to the child’s sometimes limited responses. Tell ‘memory stories’ that are rich, full and comprehensible. Recall events with your child; “Do you remember when…”, “You won’t believe…”, “I still laugh when I think of…” are rich day-to-day fodder. Remember that diverse environments will provide different language experiences,” she said.

Read read read

Reading is so important but it can also be really fun and meaningful for your baby or toddler. Read books with them every day, but let them handle the books. Let them turn the pages and show them that the writing tells the story by pointing to the words as you read.

Or allow them to retell the story to you in their own words using the pictures.

Let your kids see you reading for enjoyment. Tell them you’re lying down to read a book. Or if you’re on your phone and they ask what you’re doing, tell them you’re reading. The more they understand that as a society, we need the skill of reading, the more open to learning they will be.

What else can I read with my children?

Are you finding they’re bored with books? Reading doesn’t have to be confined to a story book. Read signs when you’re out and about. Take them to the grocery store and ask them to help by writing a shopping list. Find flash cards that have pictures and ask them what sound the word begins with, or to think of another word that rhymes with it.

How can I make reading fun?

If you take a trip to your local library you will find a fantastic children’s section. Usually there is more than just books there, they’ll also find toys and computers. Let them love the library and get them a card to borrow books.

Ask your librarian if they have an early literacy section with graded readers for those beginning to read. Some of the readers will have fun activities in the back of the book which will help you to understand your child’s reading comprehension. If we start encouraging reading and vocabulary extension from infancy, the journey to learning to read will be a much more enjoyable one for parent and child!

Educational resources to try at home

Amanda Nicholls

About the Author:

Amanda is the Editor in Chief of Entertain My Tribe and Kids Party Guide. Amanda has done everything from being a magazine editor to a newspaper journalist. She lives in the Blue Mountains with her tribe (husband and two daughters). You can follow her on Entertain My Tribe's Facebook or Kid's Party Guide's Facebook.

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