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Helping Your Child Learn New Words

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Your child needs to learn new words to talk about the things they see and do. You can help build your child’s vocabulary (the words they use and understand) by talking about many different kinds of words, including the names of:

  • things (e.g., spider, car)
  • actions (e.g., painting, running)
  • feelings (e.g., sad, happy)​

You can also talk about words that describe things (e.g., soft, hot).

​​​​​How can I help my child learn new words?

Here are some ways you can draw attention to new words and help your child build their vocabulary.

  • Talk slower and sound out the new word.
  • Talk about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. When your child hears words combined with actions, it makes the new words easier to learn (e.g., “I’m mixing the cookie dough. The cookie dough is very sticky. Let’s put them in the oven. The oven is very hot. I’ll be careful not to touch it.”).
  • Talk about what your child is doing. This will help them learn words that describe activities or things that interest them (e.g., “That’s a nice red truck. It’s driving really fast. It’s going up the ramp and around the corner.”).
  • Use new words many times throughout the day. To learn new words, most children need to hear the words spoken many times before they start to say them (e.g., “Look, the wheels on the truck roll.” “Roll the ball to Daddy.” “I’m going to roll the cookie dough.” “Let’s roll a snowball.”).
  • Use short, simple sentences to help your child learn to say a new word (e.g., “Let’s buy pie.”). When you teach your child the meaning of new words, you can speak in longer sentences.
  • Let your child experience new things. Go on field trips to the zoo, museum, grocery store, and playground. Use educational videos, television, songs, and books to help your child hear new words (e.g., “Put the sand in the bucket.”).
  • Link new words to things and experiences your child already knows (e.g., “The dinosaur is very big. It’s huge! Remember the huge dinosaurs we saw in Drumheller? We also saw dinosaurs in the movie The Land Before Time.”).
  • Help your older child to sort pictures, objects, or words into groups. Give each group a name (e.g., collect pictures of animals that live on the zoo and animals that live on a farm, then help your child sort them and name the groups “zoo animals” and “farm animals”).​

Where to go get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:

  • Your doctor, public health nurse, or other health provider
  • Your local health centre

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