Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary

One of the most wonderful times in a parent's life is when their babbling toddler develops into a chatting young child. Your sassy little one turns three, and suddenly seems to have a huge repertoire of words and plenty to say about everything! And by the time your child hits the pre-primary years, she or he will talk nineteen to the dozen!. If you would like to help improve your child's vocabulary, read on.

Although your chatty little boss baby may occasionally make you want to rip out your hair,( their rapidly expanding vocabulary is a delight and a great sign. The ability of a child to communicate effectively is crucial now more than ever. Speaking with assurance and clarity as a toddler will make all the difference in the possibilities that come your child's way, whether in the classroom or in the future. A child's vocabulary in the formative years is an accurate predictor of their educational performance later in life. Any attempt to improve your child’s vocabulary will only foster social skills and self-assurance in children and adults alike.

Children's levels of linguistic proficiency can vary greatly depending on their age. Despite the fact that early experiences have a significant impact on verbal abilities, genetic variables also play a substantial role.⁶ Improving vocabulary has a direct correlation with academic success. The capacity to learn and to read is predicted by a child's kindergarten vocabulary size.

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5 Reasons for improving vocabulary that will greatly benefit your child:

The Power of Communication. Your child's ability to articulate her needs and wants will increase as her vocabulary grows.Through the power of words, she will be able to share her ideas and opinions.

The Ability to Understand. Vocabulary is the most fundamental unit of comprehension. So, a child with a restricted vocabulary will experience lapses in her ability to fully understand what she reads or hears.

Logic. Your child's prospects of grasping and articulating ideas and concepts are greatly improved if she has a large vocabulary.

Persuasive Power. An expansive vocabulary is associated with being an eloquent, engaging speaker. Imagine giving your child this power!1

It’s All About Impressions. There’s no denying the fact that a compelling speaker will leave a lasting impression on their audience.

Mama, Dada!

One Year Old: Mama, Dada!

Majority of children begin to utter their first words around age 1.2 They usually start out by referring to individuals or things with simple words like "mama" or "dada."


Toddlers have barely 10 words when they are one year old, and about 50 words when they are between 18 and 24 months. Children tend to experience a “word spurt” after their first 50 words.2 By this time, they are also able to understand and follow simple directions, as well as name familiar objects and body parts. They may also form two-to three-word sentences like “Mama, car?” or “I want milk.”

Dog, Cat

Two-Year-Old: Dog, Cat, Dinosaur

Children’s vocabulary starts to expand at this stage, and they have around 200 to 300 words that they are familiar with.3 You will hear nouns like dog, cat, banana, cookie, at this stage . They also start saying, “thank you” “sorry” and “all gone”. These are words and phrases they will start to use frequently as they communicate with the people around them and their immediate environment.

Happy... Angry!

Three-Year-Old: Happy... Angry!

They don’t call them ‘threenagers’ for nothing. At this age, they’re perfectly capable of talking back to you, and their vocabulary would have expanded significantly.

Expect your child’s vocabulary to triple to about 900 to 1000 words at this stage.3 Three-year-olds are also now able to string together simple sentences. You can expect more connecting words such as “if”, “and”, and “because”, as well as more numbers and names of categories such as “vegetables” and “animals”. They should also be able to identify simple emotions such as “happy”, “sad” and “angry”.

I Don’t Know

Four-Year-Old: I Don’t Know

Typically, four-year-olds have a vocabulary of about 1,500 to 1,600 words.3 Expect more complex emotions like “confused” “upset” and “delighted,” as well as also more connecting words such as “when” and “but”.4 They have a better sense of direction and many more prepositions in their sentences. They are also able to verbalise what’s going on in their heads by telling you “I don’t know,” or “I can’t remember.” Yes, at this stage, sentences begin to get increasingly complex.

Five to Six-Year-Old: To Infinity and Beyond

At around this age, your child will be a kindergartener and have an expressive vocabulary of anywhere between 2,000 and 3,000 words.4 Meanwhile, their receptive vocabulary (words they understands) will be about 20,000 to 24,000 words.3 They understand alliteration and rhymes and are able to read and write. They can also easily form sentences with six words or more.


Now that you know what to expect, here are some activities for you to improve your child’s vocabulary.


How to Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary

Read, Read and Read

This is a given, and it is hard to emphasise enough how important it is. Introduce your child to a lot  of fascinating reading materials. Their vocabulary will grow as they read more. Encourage children to focus on new or strange words while you read aloud to them.

Sensory Play

Engage in sensory play such as playing in a sandbox, making dough, exploring the texture and so on. As you engage in the play, you and your child can describe what you see, feel, hear, taste and smell.5 You’ll be amazed at how rapidly your child adds sensory words to their vocabulary!


A little bit of adventure is good for everyone, so take your child out to explore nature. Take them to beaches, parks, rivers, and wherever else you please. Talk about everything you see, hear and experience. Your child will be excited and have lots to say. Assist in creating a scrapbook of your sensory memory journey.


Dinnertime Conversations

Family mealtimes provide a wonderful opportunity to converse and help improve your child’s vocabulary. Make dinnertime more meaningful by making it a vocabulary building time. For starters, speak to your child about his or her day. Ask them to tell you about their playates, what they had for lunch, what their teacher wore, what books they read at the library and so on. Use descriptive language to replace their words and phrases as they recount their day to you. Soon they will emulate your effort!

Retelling Stories

Once you've formed a reading routine, occasionally put the book down and encourage your child to either reenact the narrative in their own words or come up with a brand-new tale. Ask questions to introduce new words and concepts, along the way. When you let them express their thoughts, they are compelled to explore new words and emotions.

It's crucial to make sure your child gets enough rest and eats well in addition to getting her involved in these activities.

So go all out and help your children build a solid vocabulary. It is without doubt one of the best gifts you can give them!







6 National Library of Medicine, National centre for biotechnology information. Psychol Sci. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2017 Jul 14.
Published in final edited form as:
Psychol Sci. 2013 Nov 1; 24(11): 2143–2152.
Published online 2013 Sep 10. doi: 10.1177/0956797613488145