This post was written in collaboration with Mrs. Wordsmith, however, all opinions are my own.
Did you know that every state has learning standards for even our tiniest of learners to help educators as well as us as parents to know what it is that they should be learning and able to do at a given age?
The standards share everything from fine and gross motor skills to math concepts to early literacy development and beyond and what these areas may look like at different stages. For instance, one particular area that is highlighted for our little learners is that of vocabulary. Most state standards share that as they grow, children should begin using increasingly more complex vocabulary and language, using more descriptive words like adjectives and adverbs and forming more structurally sound and complex sentences. That being said, I thought I’d take a moment today to share in 10 simple ways you can seek to boost these skills with your toddler at home through the simple act of sharing in time reading together.
1. Read a multitude of texts. Research shows that voracious readers have a wider vocabulary, and this is no different for toddlers. One strategy we try and utilize in our home to ensure this takes place is to read one new book, one familiar book and one favorite throughout the day. It encourages children to explore new books and vocabulary, while reviewing and revisiting those they know and love as well.
2. Reread the same books over and over again. As I shared, part of our daily routine is to go back to those books that are familiar or favorites in our home. Not only do toddlers love to do this, but it actually supports their vocabulary development as well. The more familiar with a text they are, the more they can begin to “read” it on their own and familiarize themselves with the content in order to make connections to it and their world around them.
3. Choose books with a few unfamiliar words. When selecting new books to read with my little guy, I strive to find texts that are appropriate for his age range, while challenging him just the slightest as well to encourage new word development. As we read, I work to highlight new words for him, describing them through the pictures or through using words I know are already part of his vocabulary.
4. Use books with repetitive text and simple sentence structure. You know those texts that as adults drive us kind of bonkers, because you start to feel like a broken record? Those are the ones I am talking about here. Reading texts that repeat phrases over and over like “I see a…” or “There is a…” etc. actually guide kids in their understanding of sentence structure and using verbs etc. appropriately. Not to mention, they provide a great structure for assisting even our youngest learners to begin to “read” and “write” their own books as well!
5. Bring in books with different textures. We love touch and feel books over here, because they provide an immediate entrance into building our descriptive vocabulary. Words like rough, smooth, soft, fluffy, etc. can often be introduced through these texts. Bridge your child’s learning by going on a “hunt” for things around your home or community that can be described using these adjectives as well.
6. Encourage your child to “act” out nouns and verbs from the text. Some of my little one’s favorite books are ones that lend themselves to him moving his body while we read. Not only is this great for engagement, but also anytime we can connect a word or concept to movement, the more likely it is that our children will not only understand, but that it will stick with them as well.
7. Bring in “realia”. Realia are objects or materials from everyday life that can be incredibly helpful in building understanding and vocabulary when coupled with a text. Are you reading a book about vegetables? Offer some of those from the story for your child to explore in real life using their five senses as you read. Are you learning about winter clothing? Snag you child’s winter gear to have for them to make that connection to the real deal too.
8. Connect the book to a “real life” adventure. Similar to realia, providing our children with experiences that connect to a text can be extremely beneficial in bringing vocabulary to life. If you are reading about a fall day, take you child outdoors to experience the sights and the sounds of the season and play in the leaves. If you are reading about the library, then pay a visit to your local library for them to experience all it has in store and to use their new vocabulary in context!
9. Retell the story. After reading through a text, take some time to go back through it together revisiting the images and asking your child to share in their own words what happened. Not only does this reinforce vocabulary, but it builds their reading comprehension skills as well.
10. Have picture dictionaries available. Being able to pick up a dictionary (or use a dictionary app, for that matter) is certainly a useful tool as an adult. And while it’s a skill I do believe children can and should acquire over time, oftentimes at a younger age, the definitions we read only lead to more vocabulary questions than answers. I, do, however believe that having a picture dictionary on hand is incredibly appropriate for young ones. Not only does it expose them to new vocabulary in an age friendly fashion, but it sets the stage for a “big kid” or “adult” tool that can certainly be of use when coming across an unknown word later in life. One of my favorite picture dictionaries for little ones is the Mrs. Wordsmith “Storyteller’s Illustrated Dictionary”. With over 4000 useful and relevant storytelling words and hundreds of engaging illustrations, it is certainly one that children can use and explore during the toddler years and beyond.
To read more about the benefits of Mrs. Wordsmith “Storyteller’s Illustrated Dictionary” or purchase your own, simply click here. And be sure to use code “kristahapp” for 10% off your purchase. ‘s
Furthermore, if you are interested in learning more about the Early Learning Standards for children in your state, check out this state-by-state resource curated by the American Psychological Association here.