Understanding How Children Learn Words

How Toddlers Learn Words

There are children who start talking early, and others who start late. You may find some kids gibbering at first, and there are others who start talking clearly. What transpires as your child starts his lifelong relationship with words? This article talks about the ways in which children can learn new words and gain mastery over a language.

Children between ages 15-24 months experience what is known a ‘word spurt’. Some children can speak words after hearing them only once. By the time kids reach their second birthday, they will be typically using around 300 words, and by the time they turn 2.5 years, their vocabulary count can double to around 600. You may wonder how children learn words, and how can you use this science to make them learn more words?

The Science of Learning New Words

Children are naturally inclined to understand language, even before they are born. Speech can be heard in the womb clearly enough to know who is speaking. At the time of birth, they prefer their mother’s voice and the language of their parents as they are used to hearing it. Children aged 18-24 months realise the ‘naming insight’: They understand that words are the names for objects, and every object has a name. Children learn language very quickly, and between the age of 2 and 6 they learn an average of 10 new words every day.

At the same time one must remember no two children are alike. While one might utter his first word at 10 months, there are other children who won’t say a word till they are 20 months and older.
Common advice given to new parents is that they need to keep speaking to their babies to help their vocabulary grow. Language develops depending on the style of speech and the context in which the speech has been used. So talking ‘parentese’ or the high pitched exaggerated manner in which parents talk to their children can actually work in improving vocabulary in children.

Benefits of Teaching New Words

Children who have a high grasp of words are able to think deeper, express themselves better, and learn new things. They are more successful as readers and tend to read books higher than their levels in school. When we boost a child’s language and literacy experiences early on, you can avoid difficulties later in their life.

Parenting Tips to Improve Vocabulary

Controlling your child’s word spurt is not in your hands, though parents and care-givers are the key players in improving your child’s vocabulary. Here are some tips to improve your child’s vocabulary:

1. Talk to your child

Point out objects around you and explain their importance to your child. Even though he doesn’t respond, he is listening and storing.

2. Words might not sound quite right at first

Don’t be in a hurry to correct them. Repeat the correct word after they say it over a period of time.

3. Add details to conversation and use rich vocabulary

If he is holding a block that is blue, say yes, it is a blue block. Remember, they are listening and learning.

4. Reading is a good way to improve vocabulary

Read to your baby regularly. Apart from giving a guarantee that your child learns new words, it will allow your child to associate reading with learning and comfort as he comes closer to you.

5. Use ‘parentese’

Exaggerate and use ‘singsong’ ways while talking to younger children.

6. Writing and drawing

It can also help to improve a child’s understanding of objects and association.

7. Gestures

A combination of gestures with words will make it easy for children to grasp certain words and phrases.

8. Rewards

Celebrate when your kid learns a new word or two. It goes a long way in encouraging the child.

Parental Concerns

Delays in communication are normal. When delays are coupled with developmental disorders, it could be a sign of hearing impairment, autism and intellectual disability. This is where you need to notice and take the advice of a doctor.

Appropriate use of language by adults around the child will have a lifelong impact on them. Language allows children to be nurtured, guided and modelled.

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