Post by: Julie Stone, Speech/Language Pathologist with the Sprouts Child Development Initiative
“I was astonished,” I said talking to a friend. “Tonis,” her little boy repeated. “Yes, astonished,” I said back to him giving him my best astonished face, which he imitated. We all started laughing at our silly “astonished” faces. At three years of age he was picking up on a new word, which I could demonstrate the meaning through the situation. “Children with larger vocabularies more easily learn new words, and invite more sophisticated conversations,” (which, in turn, encourages richer vocabularies). (Hindman, & Wasik, 2006) .
Often we stick to simple words thinking our children won’t understand the richer (longer and more difficult) vocabulary words. However, once your child understands the “simple” words, it is important to begin adding in higher vocabulary words and demonstrate the meaning. For example, when you know your child understands “big,” it’s time to use words like huge, gigantic, enormous, etc. Don’t be afraid to use big words, and be sure to use a variety of words. Children will learn meaning best from the context of the situation, but may need additional help understanding these more challenging words. But don’t’ give up. Multiple exposures to the words help children learn. So next time you say, “Wow, that’s a big ball,” think to yourself, what are other words I can use to describe the ball?