Vocabulary is one of the easiest gifts to give to children. Why is it easy?

First, it’s free. Second, it can be incorporated into every day life.

Vocabulary is an important piece of language development. It’s also a predictor of academic and reading success.

The Thirty Million Words Initiative, which was born out of a study about the vocabulary of children that showed those from lower socioeconomic environments hear up to 30 million fewer words than their same-aged counterparts in higher socioeconomic situations. The broader vocabulary base in a 3-year-old correlates to a higher IQ and ultimately to academic success. The project aims to avoid this “word gap” by helping educate parents about how to increase their child’s exposure to more language throughout their every day lives regardless of socioeconomic status.

Repeated Exposure is a Must

Talk everyday. Play. Interact. Discuss new words and concepts. A lot.

Typically developing children need to be exposed to a new word or concept 12-15 times before they know it and understand it.

Children with a language delay need to be exposed to a word more in order to retain and understand it. Up to five times more, which is 60-75 times per word.

Not only is the frequency of exposure important but the way in which it’s presented also has an impact.

Meaningful Context is the Key

Children learn new concepts and vocabulary through play and interaction with people in their environment. This interaction provides a meaningful context to the new information.

Providing context and relating the new word to ideas your child already knows helps them to make connections in the language.

Those connections are known as the semantic network. The stronger the network, the better.

In addition to talking, reading is a great natural way to build vocabulary. Storybooks provide built-in context with pictures and child-friendly writing.

So repeated exposure and context are what drive vocabulary acquisition and development in children. This means reading a book over and over again is not only ok, but encouraged.

Other ways to increase exposure while also providing context include:

  • talking about the items you are shopping for at the grocery store
  • discussing what you see during a car ride and how/why those exist
  • giving examples of other words that have a similar meaning when you are explaining a new word
  • discuss how a new word might relate to someone your child knows well
  • discuss a new word that surfaced in last night’s bedtime story the following day when it surfaces while running errands
  • at bedtime, talk about new words discovered during the day, engage in a conversation about what they mean, how they surfaced and in what other contexts they may apply or be connected

Verbal repetition from our children can seem redundant especially today when families are busier than ever. However, the repetition serves a purpose: to build vocabulary and language.

Repetition Builds Comprehension & Expression

Repetition allows children to process and re-process all of the information related to a new word/concept. All of this is building their language–not only for comprehension on the listening side of communication, but also for flexibility in usage on the speaking end of it.

Children learn vocabulary through repeated exposure in meaningful context.

Did you see what I did there? I repeated.

Have questions about your child’s speech and language development, contact Speech With Sara LLC, 313-815-7916 or email: sara@speechwithsara.com. 

Repetition & Context are Key to Vocabulary Development

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