Year Two – Post 10 | Tips for Increasing Your Child’s Vocabulary
Language depends on more than just words. Infants and toddlers watch your mouth, hands, facial expressions and body language for communication cues, as well. Rolling your eyes or furrowing your brow sends a definite message. Using a deep tone in your voice and pointing to the lipstick that was taken out of your purse and smudged into the carpet doesn’t require much explanation of your state of mind.
Your child will become a young Sherlock Homes as he tries to put the puzzle pieces of sounds, words and conversation together. Research suggests that a child has to hear a sound or word 800 times before he recognizes it, processes the information and uses it himself. Guess who provides him with the clues? You! He wants to be just like you. It is quite an effort for him. Think about what’s involved in order for him to talk to you. He has to hear the sounds, put them together and understand what they mean – and this happens gradually, in small steps.
One of the methods that a young child develops vocabulary is through joint attention. Joint attention is the act of pointing or looking at an object while you are naming that object. Using his sight, vision, taste, smell and touch, a baby studies an object to make sense about the world around him. He sees that you are looking at something, and he follows your eyes and looks at the same object while you are talking about it. Soon, he will look at a storybook you are reading, point to the picture of the dog in the book, then point to Rover on the floor. This is a great opportunity to use the word “dog” in different ways while he is learning the new word. It goes like this: You say, “Dog. That is a dog. He is a fluffy dog. That is Rover the dog. The dog’s name is Rover.” Your child heard the word dog five times in a few seconds. When you understand that he knows what a dog is and he is old enough (usually between twelve and eighteen months) to say the word, you can give him the beginning sound to encourage him to attempt to say the
word. Remember, some sounds are easier than others for toddlers to say.
One word of warning: a child has to be in the “mood” to communicate and to work with you. You have to follow the child’s lead because you can’t force communication. He has to be focused and interested in what you want him to say. You can’t “drill” words into his head and make the exercise meaningful to him. It has to be fun. That is how he will remember it best. Do you have a good memory of an event that was fun versus a meeting that was so boring you had to use toothpicks to keep your eyes open? Make conversation fun with your child.
A nine-month-old works to speak one word. By eighteen months, he understands 50 words, and he will be speaking between eight to ten words. And by the time he is two years old, he will comprehend 300 words and use 50 words in his two-four word phrases. That is a great accomplishment in a short amount of time. You know your child better than anyone else, and you are your child’s first teacher.
– Kathryn Thorson Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series