Tips & Tricks

6 Ways To Develop Your Child’s Vocabulary Through Conversation

Did you know that children with normal hearing can hear up to 30 million words before they are four years old? Research tells us that children with hearing loss need a higher level of speech exposure to gain the same benefit.

Children need a broad vocabulary to be good readers, as they are more likely to learn to read a word that is already part of their spoken or receptive vocabulary. We know that children can learn the meaning of words from the context that they hear them in. For example, they will learn the names of different fruits if they are taught them while making fruit salad. If we remember to talk, talk, talk to our children then they will learn lots of words, which will eventually help them when they are learning to read!

In this post, we’re going to go through six simple strategies that you can use for when talking with your child to teach them new words. We’ve used an example situation of preparing for a birthday celebration, however you can apply the same six strategies to almost any everyday communication situation with your child, such as getting changed, or setting the table.


6 Ideas For Vocabulary Development

1: Put emphasis on the new word when you say it. Use acoustic highlighting to make the new word stand out in the sentence. E.g. “The decorations for the party were great.”


2: Show an illustration or a demonstration. Show your child a picture, a gesture or an action to help consolidate the meaning. E.g. “See, here’s a picture of the decorations—there are balloons and streamers.”


3: Provide a definition. Explain to your child what the word means. E.g. “Decorations are things we use to make something look exciting or beautiful.”


4: Relate the word to other words your child already knows. E.g. “We put some decorations on your birthday cake. We made it beautiful and it sure looked exciting! Do you remember, we put on Buzz Lightyear and chocolate buttons!”


5: Repeat the word again in conversation. E.g. “I think we should find some decorations to make Grandpa’s party look more exciting. What do you think we can use for decorations?”


6: Teach Similes. A simile is a way of using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare two things. The comparison helps your child to understand the relationship between words. It also helps them to remember and recall these words. Similes help children to learn more about how other people think. Here’s some examples of similes children might like:

  • Can you be quiet as a mouse?
  • Jack ran as quick as a cat.
  • This shopping is as heavy as an elephant.
  • That truck rumbled as loudly as thunder.

You might also like to use similes to help your child understand more about the 5 senses;

Sight: Grandma’s eyes are blue as the sky

Hearing: The baby’s laugh is like a dolphin

Smell: Your shoes are as stinky as a pig pen

Touch: Grandpa’s hands are as rough as sandpaper

Taste: This candy on the cake is as sour as a lemon


These steps for vocabulary instruction will help your child will hear more words, and you will be closer to your 30 million word target.

Happy talking!


Check out cochlear implant surgeon Diana’s advice on the importance of talking with your child to build vocabulary.



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