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Investing in a Bank of Words: How to Develop Your Child’s Vocabulary

by on 13/07/2021 2504

By Petrina Cheong (Speech-Language Pathologist at Oasis Place)

Think about the language in which you’re most fluent and imagine you had to describe a movie you watched to a friend. Now picture yourself doing the same but with a foreign language you hardly use. It can be a struggle to express meaning, feelings and opinions when you do not have the words to do so.

Similarly, it can be difficult to understand someone’s explanation if you only understand 10 of the words he or she says. An expansive vocabulary is essential for academic learning as a student is expected to be able to understand spoken and written instructions and questions in addition to expressing themselves fluently via speech and writing.

Vocabulary is like a bank of words. Each of us has a word bank in our brain with different amounts of words in it. Those of us who are multilingual will have several banks, each with varying amounts of words stored. By the age of 2, children are already expected to have around 200-300 words in their word bank. This rises exponentially by the time the child is 5 years old, when the expected range of vocabulary increases to 2100-2200 words.

If you’re having some trouble trying to introduce new vocabulary, here are some tips and tricks that you may find helpful:

1. Introduce New Words and Repeat Them

Children learn best when they are engaged and having fun. Plan an activity where you’re able to introduce new vocabulary in a natural manner. Repeat the new vocabulary during the activity within different sentences.

2. Use New Words

The best way to learn a new word is to use it. After introducing a new word, challenge your child to use this word. 

3. Playing Word Games

There are plenty of fun word games like Scattergories, Pictionary, Hangman, Spill and Spell that challenges children to use new words. 

4. Using a Thesaurus

A thesaurus lists words of similar meaning, and this can be helpful in teaching children to use different vocabulary when writing or expressing themselves. It can also be a useful tool for children to figure out meanings of new words. 

5. Sharing Books

Many parents read to their child but studies have shown that reading with your child provides children with the opportunity to learn about new vocabulary in context, draw ideas from their own experiences, and extend their thinking processes beyond the here and now.

If you’re reading a book about the farm and you’re introducing a new word like ‘field’, talking about the word with your child can help with their learning of new words. For example, you can ask questions such as “Who goes to the field?” or “What is planted in this field?” or “What do you think a field is used for?”. Or you may talk about the different fields in the book or how the characters in the book are interacting with the field. By reading with your child, you are encouraging them to think about the word in multiple contexts. 

Reading books is a great way to build vocabulary as they repeat similar words throughout the book. A book about animals will indefinitely have ‘animals’ repeated again and again throughout the book. This increases the child’s exposure and memory of new vocabulary.

Having a rich vocabulary is imperative for expressing oneself and for understanding written and spoken language. If you are concerned about your child’s development of language, you can consult a speech and language therapist for advice.


Oasis Place, located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, is Malaysia’s largest multidisciplinary intervention centre, embracing a client-centered approach through transdisciplinary intervention. We offer all our assessment and therapy services onsite at our centre, offsite at schools, and online through OPConnect. At Oasis Place, helping people learn and grow is at the heart of everything we do. We work with all learning different individuals - from Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyslexia and Dyscalculia to Down Syndrome. Our core services are Psychology, Speech & Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Music Therapy, Continuous Education and Nutrition.  

For more information on our services, please visit our website at , Facebook at OasisPlaceMalaysia, Instagram and Twitter @OasisPlaceMY