Helping Young Children Learn New Words

Adult reading book to children outdoors

For children, learning to read means continually building an ever-growing vocabulary of words. Child care providers are a key part in this process of vocabulary development.

Vocabulary is the number of words known or used by a person. Children use simple words that they understand. Generally, children understand more words than they use. The average preschooler knows about 5,000 words. By the end of high school the average young adult will know about 60,000 words. A child’s vocabulary will gradually grow over time and improve with practice.

Child care providers can help expand children’s vocabulary by talking with them. Patience is important, because children often stumble a bit as they learn. Gently help children with the meaning and pronunciation of words that they do not know.

Helping Children Learn Vocabulary

Here are some ways to help young children learn new words:

  • Read different types of books
  • Talk with children about daily events
  • Ask about the pictures in a book and say the word for the picture if they don’t know it
  • Search for new words in books
  • Help children read new words and talk about the meaning

For More Information

To learn more about child care providers’ roles in supporting early literacy, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

To find activities to support early literacy, check out the Hands-On Activities for Child Care and Story-Stretching Activities for Child Care searchable databases.