My son had a speech delay, so he didn’t really talk much until he was about 3.5 years old. When I took him for testing, though, his receptive speech was way ahead of the rest of his age group. When he did start speaking, just about everyone was amazed at his vocabulary.
While I’m constantly amazed by my son for many reasons, I wasn’t really all that surprised that he had such a rich vocabulary, because I’ve been laying the groundwork for it since his birth. I’m a writer, and words are more than just a means to make money for me, they’re a passion. I wanted to instill a similar passion in my son, even if he doesn’t grow up to be a writer like me. From day one, I spoke to him like the little human being that he is and completely banned all that “goo goo ga ga” baby talk nonsense from his life. I also took every single opportunity I could to enhance his vocabulary, including using a myriad of word-building games.
Games to help enhance your child’s vocabulary
Affiliate links included below.
Games that build your child’s vocabulary are fantastic tools because kids enjoy playing so much that they don’t feel like they’re stuck in a never-ending day of school. In many cases, you don’t even need any materials to start playing a fun game. You just need a working larynx (your voice box), a set of functioning ears, and a working Broca’s area (the part of your brain linked to speech and language). Try a few of these games next time you’re driving in the car or waiting in line at the grocery store:
- The alphabet category game. Not sure what else to call this, but Jacob and I play a game where we’ll pick a category, then go through the alphabet finding words for each letter that fit the category. For example, if the category is Animals, then we’ll find an animal for each letter. Alligator, bear, cat, dog, elephant… When it’s my turn, though, I try to come up with more obscure animals. Alligator is the obvious choice for “A,” so I’ll go with Aardvark instead.
- The synonym game. Pick a word, then come up with as many other ways as possible of saying that word. Adjectives work best, since they tend to have the most synonyms, but occasionally I throw out a noun. Like “car,” can be automobile, personal transportation device, or motorized vehicle.
- Find the longest word game. This is good for when you’re driving in the car. Keep a lookout for words, and keep track of the letters in each one. Whoever finds the longest word by the end of the ride wins. Hint- look for Massachusetts license plates!
- What’s that mean? Grab a dictionary and randomly open it. Read a word and ask your child what he thinks it means. If he has no clue, use it in a sentence and see if he can glean the meaning from that.
Of course, there are plenty of games out there that actually use boards, tiles, and cards to help enhance vocab skills. One of our new favorites is Wordical, which is available at Educational Insights. We received this game in exchange for an honest review.
Wordical is a “radical dice-rolling, word-building race” game in which you combine your consonant letter cards with the vowels on the dice to create the highest-scoring word. It’s super easy to learn, and completely customizable based on your child’s vocab level.
The dice feature the basic vowels along with a Wild side that can represent any of the vowels.
See those little numbers on the cards? Add them together to get your score. The goal is to get the highest score by the end of the game. You can decide what number you want to play to. Now, you can play the game as is and have a ton of fun challenging each other to come up with the best word, or you can put your own unique spin on it. For example, challenge players to only come up with adjectives, or pick a category and try to find words that fit it.
Aside from the obvious fun factor, one of the great things about Wordical is that it is easy to take anywhere. When you’re done playing, just put the cards and dice back in the storage tin.
Although the game is technically designed for ages 8 to adult, younger kids can play too if you relax the rules a bit. Instead of focusing on winning the game with the highest score, just let them try their hand (pun intended) at finding the best words with their cards and the dice.