As they explore the world around them, babies have
the talents of their prehistoric ancestors to assign
names to the things around them. Then it’s up
to you to go from figuring out their cries to figuring
out what the heck a ‘baba’ and ‘mow
mow’ is. In case your curious ‘baba’
is another word for pacifier and ‘mow mow’
is a cat because cats ‘meow’. See? Your
baby will most likely name something after its function
as that’s the easiest way for him to remember
what it is. Of course this won’t help you much
when you’re trying to explain to you child why
a chair is called a chair and not a ‘sit’.
When you notice them beginning to make up words to
reference things around them, it’s time to step
in and start teaching them the right words for things.
The good news is there are literally dozens of ways
you could help improve your child’s vocabulary.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll look at
seven of them.
For Cheryl, a technical support person in Product Engineering
from Rockville, Maryland, reading to her son was one
of the methods she found most effective. As you sit
down with your children, talk to them about the story
you’re about to read together. As they look at
the pictures, try to engage them in what they think
is happening in the pictures before you read the actual
words. This develops the connections between what the
see and what they hear. With repetition they are able
to memorize certain words in reference to specific images.
Cheryl continues, “Whatever he learned at daycare,
games for example, I would ask him to teach me.”
Make sure to ask question so that he has to use his
words to explain. Give them the time they need to get
their words out and if they made mistakes, make sure
to wait until after they’ve answered before repeating
the answer back to them, like you’re trying to
make sure you understood. Jumping in to correct them
as they are talking might chip away at their self esteem
and make them less likely to want try again.
No Baby Talk Allowed
Children will often revert back to ‘baby talk’
because it’s comfortable and familiar. They may
feel that learning all these foreign new words simply
takes too long when they have their own language that
you’ve learned over time that will get their point
across just as well. Sometimes, using this baby talk
back to them will show them how silly it sounds. This
was the case with Cheryl’s son. “I’d
baby talk with him, and he said I sounded silly. I think
it helped him.”
Denise DiBuo, a 26 year old stay at home mother from
Etobicoke, Ontario adds, “I would tell them
‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.
Please use your grown up word. I find that when they
want to tell you something and if you won’t answer
them or pay attention when they’re using their
baby word then they are always willing to use the proper
way of pronouncing words.”
Maybe it’s the repetitions and rhyming, but songs
are useful tools to helping a child expand their vocabulary.
For Denise, this was an effective method for her children.
“They seem to remember more by using the word
in a song.” Have fun with it by making up your
own words to familiar melodies. If you have a recorder,
you can tape your child singing along with you and give
him a chance to make up his own verses.
The ‘What’s This?’ Game
Alison Brown, a 26 year old court reporter from Fayette,
MO used the world both inside and outside to help her
son learn the proper names for things. “When we
would look at books, either I would name something and
ask him to point to it or I would point and ask him
to name. We did the same thing out at the store or other
places we went.”
Word Of The Day
Pick a word of the day and explain what it means. Encourage
your child to use that word as many as possible correctly.
You could make a game of it and set a limit like through
out the day he must use the word five times the right
way and he’ll get a treat like a sticker. Pick
a new word every day and at the end of the week, if
he’s used his words correctly, take him out for
ice cream or another special treat.
Show And Tell
Take your child out on a walk or out to the park and
have them pick up interesting looking things like a
pretty flower or rock or maybe if you’re at the
beach they can pick up a seashell or marbles or coins.
When you get home, ask your child to spread them out
and tell you about his findings.
It doesn’t matter which specific method you use,
you may find that one that worked today won’t
work tomorrow but might work the day after. The point
is to keep trying and soon you’ll learn the dichotomy
every parent faces. You want your child to start talking
but then once they do…