Parents | Raising readers & learners.

Home of Parent & Child Magazine

Vocabulary Boosters

For your child's vocabulary to grow bigger and stronger, you have to feed it daily with new words!

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Memory and Memorization
Attention and Focus

Vocab In a Flash
Help your elementary-aged child to make flash cards with words that give him problems. Instruct him to write the word on one side, the definition on the back. Underneath the definition, he should write a sentence using the problem word in context. Hint: He’s not going to learn the word if the sentence goes something like, "I don't know the word 'onerous'." Make sure the sentence gives clues about what the word means. For example: "Learning all these vocabulary words doesn't have to be an onerous task; in fact, I can make it pretty easy!"

An Earful of Words
English can be a tricky language. Just look at all the words that are spelled differently but sound exactly the same! Help kids to learn the difference between homophones: to, too, and two; write and right; there, their, and they're; accept and except. Kids should make up reminders to help them tell the difference between the meanings as well as what meanings go with what spellings of the words. Here's one for the set of to, too, and two:

  • "To" is usually used when you go somewhere or do something, like running to the store or getting to the point. Just remember that to has the same number of letter as "do" and "go" — and substitute the "t" for either the "d" or the "g."
  • "Too" indicates "as well" or "more," like "Me, too!" or "There are too many vocabulary words!" The idea is that there's something extra, including and extra "o"!
  • "Two" is the spelling of the number 2. This is easy — ask yourself how many "v's" it takes to make the "w" in the middle of the word. The answer is, of course, 2 or "two".

Get to the Root of It
Most words are made up of mini words called roots that come from the Greek and Latin languages. These roots appear in the middle of lots of different words but always mean the same thing. For example, the root "spec" means "to look at." Now encourage your child to think about all the words that have "spec" somewhere in it:

  • A spectator is someone who watches something, like an event. All those people at his little sister's dance recital are spectators.
  • When you inspect an object, you're looking very closely at it. And inspectors examine evidence when they're trying to solve a mystery.
  • Respecting another person means that you look at him with admiration.
  • A spectacle is an exhibition that people look at with great interest.
  • Speculation means looking at something you don't know a lot about and guessing its meaning. So basically, every time your child speaks these words, he or she is using a little bit of Greek or Latin. Pretty cool, huh?

It's All in the Details
Ask your child to try to pinpoint the best word to use when he describes something. Some tips for you to share: think about specific colors, whether a common word works for a situation, or how something makes you feel. Is the chair best described as red, or is it more a like a deep maroon? Was it simply a good day because you got picked first for soccer, or was it fantastic because you also got an A+ on your math homework, your crush talked to you during lunch, and the weather was perfect for a bike ride after school? Did your brother simply make you mad, or are you furious about the mess he made in your room? Picking the word that's "just right" will help your child write better and improve his vocabulary.

Pick a Word of the Day
Challenge your child to open the dictionary, close her eyes, and point to a word on the page. Whatever she picks becomes the word of the day. Once she knows the definition of that word, she has to use it at least once in conversation during the day. Your child’s teacher will be in awe when she says she’s disgruntled that the cafeteria ran out of pizza at lunch (it means not happy about it, annoyed, or displeased). If your child doesn't want to pick the word herself, there are other ways to get her to learn a word of the day. Bookstores often sell tear-off calendars with a different word for every day of the week. There's even Word of the Day toilet paper!

Play Games
Who knew that something like learning could be so fun? Word scrambles, Mad-Libs, crossword puzzles, and word-find games all help expand vocabulary, believe it or not. Board games like Scrabble, Boggle, and Scattergories also offer some pretty entertaining ways to discover new words.

It's very simple: The more your children read, the more they'll build up their vocabulary. So encourage kids to pick up a book today and work on advancing their reading levels.

Find Just-Right Books

The Reading Toolkit

Sponsor Spotlight