Expanding Vocabulary Naturally

M & D selfie

My little munchkin!

My 3 year old, Delaney, is a very cautious child. She always has been. Visiting new places, meeting new people or even seeing out-of-state family for the first time in months…these all require that she has time to warm up on her terms or there will be a tears and maybe a meltdown. I honestly think this is a good characteristic trait. Feeling safe is very important to D.

A couple of months ago, a random happening rocked her world. We had already put her and her sister to bed, but it was still daylight out. Around 7:30, an ice cream truck drove through our neighborhood with that creepy “ice cream truck” music BLARING. It took me a minute to figure out what all the racket was. Then came the screams. D was beside herself! The unusual noise had scared her enough, but then it kept getting louder and louder as the truck drove down the street toward and around our house. I ran upstairs, and my heart just ached as I tried to comfort her. I was also quite a bit ticked off at the idiot driving the ice cream truck, but I couldn’t focus on that. She eventually calmed down and fell asleep, but I had to stay with her until she did.

After this, I noticed that D kept asking if I was going to “save” her. I thought it was a bit odd that “save” was the word she used, but I reassured her that I would keep her safe. My husband and I wondered where she had picked up that word. Then I started noticing how many times we used the word “save” when watching some of her favorite movies.

  • Mufasa was trying to save Simba from the stampede.
  • Ariel saved Prince Eric from drowning.
  • Woody went back to Sunnyside Daycare to save his friends.

She had simply picked up that word by hearing it time and time again. Then, since it was well established that she knew and understood the word “save”, we intentionally started saying the same things in different ways. By making connections to a word and concept that she already understood, we were making a conscientious effort to expose her to new words and expand her vocabulary.

  • Mufasa is trying to protect Simba from the stampede.
  • Ariel pulled Prince Eric to safety.
  • Woody is going back to Sunnyside to rescue his friends.

You might be wondering if we have noticed any differences. Yesterday during some pretend play, D said to me, “Don’t worry Mommy. I will keep you safe and protect you.” This did not happen overnight. D has heard variations of this multiple times in a variety of situations. Now we can start working on other concepts like protection from the sun, Fire Rescue trucks, safety first, etc.

Have you tried something like this? Did it work? What are some other ways that you try to increase your child’s vocabulary? I’d love to hear from you!

Melissa 🙂