We’ve all been there – we’re in the café chatting with a friend, when all of a sudden… your mind draws a blank! What’s that word again? It’s on the tip of my tongue! Not being able to describe something can definitely be a bit cringey, but for kids it can mean something deeper.
Having a poor vocabulary can really affect a child’s confidence. They might start to think they’re not clever, not cool enough to keep up with their friends or they might even begin to underperform in school. A good word bank is a fantastic tool that helps kids in all aspects of their life – not just in the classroom, but in the playground and at home too.
Kids are so resourceful and can come up with really creative ways of explaining something if they don’t know the word for it. Put under the spotlight I’ve heard kids call dandelions ‘fluff flowers’ and sheep are now ‘the ones that run like clouds’. But by letting children know the right words, you empower them and give them an invaluable tool that will set them up for life.
(Plus, let’s face it, we’d all like to live in a world where the cow somersaulted over the lunar eclipse and the dish skedaddled accompanied by the spoon.)
So let’s have fun and learn some language!
1. Use ‘big’ words at home
We all have those pet names we like to use around the house (I was twelve before I realised it was called a ‘shower’ and not a ‘spladoosh’!) but make sure kids know the proper words for things too. It might be names for objects and places, but also for feelings and descriptive words.
Why call something ‘nice’ when you could say it’s ‘exquisite’? Why be ‘happy’ when you could be ‘overjoyed’? And why be ‘big’ when you can be ‘humungous’! This will mean they’re less likely to get stumped around friends or family when the conversation is going super-fast and have lots of different words to fall back on.
2. Chat, chat, chat!
It may sound simple, but setting aside time to talk to your child about their day can really make a difference. This is perfect for over the table at dinnertime when everyone is listening to each other.
Have them tell you all about what they’re doing at school and all the interesting science experiments they’re learning about! Ask them about their friends and what their favourite games are. This will make it easier to chat with other kids and adults, and even make them more confident at public speaking!
3. Head to the local museum
Wherever you are in the UK, there are a whole host of brilliant museums just bursting with knowledge and kids events almost every weekend. If your child can’t get enough of their Xbox, take them to the Museum of Science and Industry, or if they love learning about animals, then a trip to the Natural History Museum is certainly on the cards!
When you’re home, ask them to write a letter to someone in the family telling them all about their fab day out. Kids are naturally inquisitive so they won’t be able to wait to learn and understand the words for the things they love – you’ll be amazed at how much you can pick up from just one visit!
4. Fun word games
Some of us are complete Scrabble-fiends but it takes practice to get that triple-word score. Encourage a love of language by playing games like word association or “I went to the shops and I bought…” These are great for long car journeys or on the plane this summer holiday.
Games like this really engage the brain and get kids thinking about patterns, synonyms and how they’re going to outwit the grown-ups!
5. Get lost in a book
Encourage kids to read the books you really liked when you were their age. Ask them questions: did you find the first chapter scary? What did you think of the smelly dog? What would you have done if you’d been there? Talking about something you both love will make them feel more grown-up and they’re more likely to use larger, more varied words when you talk together. Even ask them to retell the story in their own words. This will get them thinking outside the box and find new words to describe the characters they’ve fallen in love with.
Vocabulary makes the world go around: it can take kids to new imaginary worlds, inspire them to find out more about their favourite things, and can make their confident grow and grow and grow! Is there anything words can’t do?