How to support your child’s Vocabulary Development

What is vocabulary and why is it important?

Vocabulary refers to the words your child is able to understand as well as the words they use in sentences. It is important your child has an age appropriate vocabulary across their entire childhood. From early childhood, your child is using their vocabulary to communicate with you and understand what you are saying to them. It becomes even more import as your child reaches school age, as it is a crucial part of reading, writing and functioning in the classroom.

How do you know if your child has difficulties with vocabulary?

Your child may:

  • Show frustration when they have limited words to communicate their message
  • Be a late talker (e.g. only have a few words at the ages of 2 and 3)
  • Hesitant language such as ‘um’ and ‘ah’
  • Use non-specific words such as “thing”
  • Have difficulty following simple instructions
  • Have difficulty reading
  • Have difficulty answering questions.


What can you do to help your child’s vocabulary?

When you are teaching basic vocabulary such as colours and concepts, you can give your child opportunities to copy the words you say in short, simple sentences (e.g. “Green tree” or “Tall tree”). You can also extend on what they say by adding descriptive words to their sentences (e.g. Child: “Ball”; Parent: “Green ball”).

As your child gets older, help them identify unknown words when they are reading or completing their homework. Assist them in finding both similar and opposite words to help them to understand the meaning and then practice using these new words in sentences.


If you suspect your child may have a vocabulary delay, contact a speech pathologist for an assessment. If you would like to read more on the impacts of vocabulary delay on reading, you can do so at:

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