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Helping to Grow Your Child’s Vocabulary


‘Oral vocabulary’ refers to the range of words which your child can understand when they hear them and can use when they are talking.

In this industry and as Speech Therapists in Nottingham we’ve seen that research shows that your child’s vocabulary is very important. It is directly linked to their later school success, impacting on their reading, maths and behaviour skills. Furthermore, without understanding and using a range of different words, your child’s thinking skills and knowledge about the world are restricted.


So what can you do to help Develop Your Child’s Vocabulary?

You need to think both about what you are saying to your child and how you are saying it.


WHAT to Say

Research shows that in typical development:

  • Children aged 12-24 months need exposure to lots of words ie. they need quantity.
  • Children aged 24-36 months need to hear a variety of ‘sophisticated’ words ie. they now know lots of common words so want to learn more difficult words e.g. “exhausted” instead of ‘tired’, “sprinting” instead of ‘running.
  • Children aged 36-48 months need to hear about past and future events and explanations ie. “Oh we can’t put them in the bus because the bus is full of bricks” “Oh yes, we had popcorn at the cinema. Do you remember?”


HOW to Say It

With our multitude of experience from being speech therapists in Nottingham, we have found that there are a range of different strategies to show you how to introduce new words to your child and develop their vocabulary skills at home:


Talk about Things in the Here and Now 

Your child is more likely to engage with you and learn if they are interested. So provide commentary about what you and your child are doing e.g. “We’re drinking hot chocolate” “I’m eating pasta and sauce” “We’re walking to the shops”.


Think about changing the words and phrases you use depending on your child’s age/level of development e.g.

“We’re sipping hot chocolate” “We’re strolling to the supermarket”.

“We need to have a hot chocolate because it’s cold outside” “Do you remember when we went to the supermarket and saw Tom?”


Link new words with words that your child already knows e.g. “There’s a jet. A jet is a very fast aeroplane.”


Be face-to-face with your child when talking to them, this is something that seach therapists have found extremely useful, as this will help them to look at you and focus on what you are saying.

Spend time playing ‘pretend play’ with your child e.g. pretend that you are going on a picnic, pretend you are at the doctors, pretend that you are at school. Take on the role of your character (e.g. doctor) and say phrases and words that a doctor would use ie. “How hot do you feel? Let me take your temperature”. “Open your mouth wide…say ‘ahhh’” “Let me put a bandage on your poorly leg” this is also something that search therapists will do along other assessments.


Be visual when talking to your child ie.

  • Hold or point to the object you are talking about e.g. “Look at all the dark clouds (point) in the sky”
  • Gesture the action you are saying e.g. “We have got to drive to the shops”.

This will help to grab your child’s attention so that they are concentrating on what you are saying and it will help them to understand the new words.


Repeat, repeat, repeat. Give your child lots of opportunities to hear the new words. Children need to hear a word said a number of times before they start to use it correctly in their own speech.


If you have any concerns about your child’s vocabulary skills or need advice on speech therapy in Nottingham, please feel free to contact the speech therapists at Speech Right’s Nottingham base on 0115 882 0117 or info@speechright.co.uk