Ways to Build Vocabulary for Your Kindergartner

By Renae Blum

Kindergarten is a prime time for learning new words. Experts say that the average kindergartner will learn about 3,000 new words over the course of the school year. As Mom and Dad, you have a special opportunity to enhance and reinforce what your kids are learning. The most important ingredient? Simply spending time together. The more words that your kids hear you say, the better their vocabulary will be.

Teaching your kids new words doesn’t have to cost a thing. Here are some suggestions to get your kids talking and thinking.

Hit the library. Books are a smorgasbord of new images and sounds. When you read to your kindergartner, take your time. Be an investigator. Ask questions: “What’s that?” “Why is he doing that?” “Where are they going?” Repeat words and phrases that may be unfamiliar, and have your child say them back to you. Once you’ve identified a new idea, give your child examples of how that word or thought might occur in different contexts. Studies show that children learn new words by building on words they already know, and by seeing a word within a specific context. Give your child plenty of opportunities to do just that.

Take a trip. Part of learning new words is visual. What better way to add words to your child’s memory bank than by letting them touch and feel an object, or see it in motion? Scope out places in your community where your child will be exposed to new things: a museum, the zoo, the grocery store, a park. If you work outside the home, that may be another place filled with interesting objects, people and things in action. If you’re pressed for time, a simple walk around the neighborhood will yield plenty of new ideas and words. As you talk together, remember to ask questions, giving your child the chance to repeat back new words in their own way.

Action! Learning is by doing, right? Look around the house. You have plenty of learning opportunities at your fingertips: cooking together, cleaning together, and playing a board game or computer game. As you play and work, keep the words flowing: discuss each ingredient as you cook, and ask your child questions about it. While cleaning, talk about why you do each action, and what various objects are called. Board or computer games can be a fun way to see and use new objects in action.

These ideas are only the beginning. Remember that every child is an individual – what special interests might your child have? The more you think about it, every interaction with your child becomes an opportunity to learn – and to bond at the same time.