Updated: Aug 3
“How was the party?”- you ask your child as he or she gets into your car. “Oh, it was fun!” – is the answer. The movie that she saw yesterday was also fun, and so was a new dance class or a football match, a video game, or even a math competition. Nothing makes us more content than a sight of a happy child! Every parent would agree with this, and so do I. Nevertheless, as an educator I want to scream out loud each time I hear this word, the verbal bubble, that means everything and nothing at the same time. What should we do to expand our kids’ vocabulary, and most importantly for them to have a desire to expand it?
Reading helps…We all know this. What if a child doesn’t like reading? Yes, they do learn words in school, cram the definitions, and take multiple tests. The bad news is that if we had to choose the worst way to expand someone’s vocabulary, this one would definitely be the winner. Words stay with us if they are connected to some experiences, memories, or feelings in our minds. When the connection is weak, we might forget them the day after the test. Our brain usually cares the least about tests, and so it sweeps off all this unnecessary information.
What can be done then? I haven’t got the remedy that works for everyone, but I have a few suggestions.
Talk to your child. If he is into a new video game, ask him why this one is much more interesting than a previous version of this game. Answers like “Because it is so much fun!” do not count. Let him describe the characters, talk about different levels of the game, and look for detailed answers. Read a blog devoted to video games together! If your daughter spends all her time after school with a new friend, ask her to explain why this girl is so special. Make it clear that “Oh, because she is nice” is not an answer you are looking for! Maybe you might have a girls` only night out, and share some stories about why you love your friends.
Develop your kid’s eye for detail! Kids are glued to their smartphone screens? Well, take a smartphone and photograph something together even if you are not a pro. Practice makes perfect Even if it is rainy outside, you may stay at home and take pictures of familiar objects, but from the weirdest angles. Let the other members of the family guess what was photographed. New words might be added amid a heated discussion! And the winner gets…let your imagination run wild at this point.
Draw funny sketches, make your child write down what he or she sees, and then ask someone else to draw another picture based on that description. This game can take forever, and the less skilled in drawing the person is, the more intriguing the game becomes. It’s a great opportunity to share a laugh, develop an eye for detail, and work on a child’s writing skills.
Go for a walk in a park and have a quest asking your child and his or her friends to look for a tree that reminds them of a bear, an old man, an alien, or a dragon. Pay their attention to little things that would escape their eyes otherwise. Make them stand for their choice and argue that a tree has a striking resemblance to a neighbor that lives next door, but not an alien.
Little by little it adds on, and the next time your child needs to describe a setting while writing a narrative, he or she won’t be rolling his or her eyes and saying “It’s just the “road”. All roads are the same!”