Six playful ways to improve your child vocabulary

Last week I wrote three steps to help your child enjoy reading (see here). This week I wanted to expand on how I help my children to build their vocabulary.

If English is your native language, your children naturally hear a wide range of vocabulary at home and they learn from you.

At our house, my children hear a basic English as my first language is Russian, while my husband speaks Italian at home.

In addition to reading (which is the most important tool), I always try to find a playful way to teach my children richer vocabulary.

1) Board Games

The first suggestion is to get board games that improve your vocabulary. My two favourites are Scrabbles and Alias. If you have younger children, start with Junior Scrabble and then you can move to Standard Scrabble.  To learn the new words, we allow the players to use the dictionary when one is stuck.  Another games which is a bit harder is Alias which also has a Junior version but we use the standard one.

2) Playing cards.

I also struggle with remembering English names for trees, birds and flowers.  I tried to buy books with the pictures to learn the names but these books are not very engaging. Flash cards are also not much fun to play with.  

I was very happy to come across playing card sets from Heritage Playing Cards that have themes such as garden birds, tree varieties,  wild flowers and more. We like playing card games with the children but using the cards with trees or birds' names helps to visually learn their names.

3) Crosswords.

If you spend time during the day waiting with children (between pick-ups or on public transport), I always carry with me a little book with children crosswords and a pencil. There are several editions but the one I like are Crosswords for Clever Kids and The Kids' Book of Crosswords Series from Gareth Moore.

4) Games to play on the go.

There are several games we play when we are on the go. One is to pick up a category (like food or animals or countries) and each player's first letter of the word is the last letter of the previous player's word. 

Another game is to list all the words starting with a particular letter from the same category, e.g. list all flowers starting with letter "A". The first player who is stuck looses. Or the challenge can be for each player to list 10 names of fish or trees, etc.

5) Post-it notes:

We pick 3-5 words per week which are funny or interesting and put them on post-it notes in the children's bedroom and try to use them this week. That will work only if the kids find the words amusing and truly want to use them. A great source of such vocabulary is The Small Book of Big Words by Jonathan Meres.


6) Keeping a notebook for new WOW words:

I have to say, we are not very good to be consistent with this habit but we try. When my children read a book, I ask them to tell me 1-3 words that they did not know and they think they are a nice words to use and write them down in our special notebook of WOW words. 

I hope you find some of those tips useful and please do share if you have some other games/techniques you use at your home. Read our this week newsletter with other news and ideas here.