How to Expand a Child’s Vocabulary

02/06/2014, 10:38

The development of a child’s speech begins within the first 6 months of his life and is characterized by a constant increase of a vocabulary – from 50 words in 2 years to about 3000 words in 5-6 years.

There are two types of vocabulary: active and passive. The active vocabulary includes words which are used in oral speech and in writing. The passive includes words the person learns when reading and aurally, but doesn't use them in oral speech or in writing. As a rule, passive is bigger than active.

Creation of the passive vocabulary

There are many methods which help create and expand the vocabulary of the child. First of all, communication with the child, reading books aloud and discussing them, and reading and learning verses. Try to comment on the actions, speak, and discuss with the child. Use many words for description and assessment of events, landscapes, and people and their actions in your conversation. To speak about rare in everyday life (names of birds, plants, animals, insects, mushrooms, fishes) use book illustrations and cards. Teach the child the principles of word formation (adjectives, diminutive-hypocoristic forms, exaggerations) – and his vocabulary will increase considerably. Explain the meanings of all new words. If the child doesn’t learn to ask what unknown words mean, have him learn to pay attention to new words. Do not be afraid to tell the child long, difficult, and rare words – he will actually remember them quicker than small, simple words. Tactfully correct the child when he uses the wrong word, for example, trees don't wave, but move. Try not to use general words often (for example, not the uncle, but the neighbor, the mail carrier, the tourist, the passerby).

Train the active vocabulary

Speech games are perfectly suitable for training the active vocabulary. There are lots of such games – we’ve listed the best below.

"Words with a letter". The adult and child take turns naming words with the same letter at the beginning of the word.

"Game in words". The adult and child take turns naming words with the same letter at the beginning of the word.

"I know five words with the letter …" . This is a well-known game that many have played since childhood. Players take turns tossing a ball and each time tell one word from the group selected in advance (names of girls, names of boys, birds, animals, rivers, cities, and so on). It is possible to complicate the task by naming words in the group that begin with a certain letter.

 "On the contrary". This is a well-known game that many have played since childhood. Players take turns tossing a ball and each time tell one word from the group selected in advance (names of girls, names of boys, birds, animals, rivers, cities, and so on). It is possible to complicate the task by naming words in the group that begin with a certain letter.

"Find the similar word". The adult says a word or a combination of words, and the child says words with similar meaning. For example, the tree not only stands, but also grows. 


"Compliments". The essence of this useful game is a toy which the child shall tell many compliments too. Name the toy’s advantages. Don’t only list signs (with bright eyes, smart, etc.), but also use comparisons (eyes sparkle like diamonds, smart as a computer, etc.).

"Accurate word". National proverbs and sayings are a fine means of expression. Teach children to understand and explain the meanings of sayings, and how to use them in speech. Discuss one proverb daily (for example, "There is no place like home", " Enough is as good as a feast", "Every bean has its black") the child not only will enrich their vocabulary, but also learn to make conclusions

Follow these simple ideas – and soon the vocabulary of your child will exceed your own!

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