Learning New Words from Story Time

The average adult can recognize about 125,000 words instantly. Before entering school, most kids will recognize about 6,000 words and continue learning new words as they grow.

How Do They Learn?

At about 9 months, children begin to acquire a limited vocabulary. The first words they understand are most often things that are important to their daily lives, such as mommy, daddy and bottle.

From this point on, children’s vocabularies explode. They learn several new words every single day and are soon able to speak those words.

They learn most of their early vocabulary from listening to their parents or other caregivers. Many speak directly to children and have “conversations” with them, even if the kids aren’t old enough to reply.

During these interactions, children make mental notes of the new words they hear and file them away for future use. But they also pick up new vocabulary by overhearing conversations between other people.

Build Vocabulary

When reading to your toddler, here are some tips to help him or her learn new words:

  • When you come across a new word, ask your child to guess what the word might mean. Discuss any clues to the meaning of the word that might appear in the text.

  • Make sure to explain the full meaning of the word, and give another example of how the word could be used in a sentence.
  • If it’s a word that you’re both unfamiliar with, don’t hesitate to get out the dictionary. After all, there are some words that even parents don’t know. By looking up a word that’s unfamiliar to you, you’ll be showing your child that learning new words is more than just a kid thing.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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