If your child is starting Prep this week, this means there are many new things they will be learning every day, including new words!  Starting Prep (or any year of schooling for that matter), means your child will need to understand and use many different words in order to successfully navigate their new school environment.

What is vocabulary?

Simply put vocabulary is the knowledge of words. Knowledge of words includes information about:

  • The meaning of the word

  • The structure of the word (e.g. endings like /s/ or /ed/)

  • How to use the word in a sentence/s

Why is vocabulary important?

Vocabulary is important for many reasons:

  • It is key to your child’s understanding and ability to express their ideas.

  • The more words a child knows, the more information they have access to which helps them to think and learn about the world around them.

  • Having a rich vocabulary means children can understand and use language for a variety of social purposes (e.g. telling a story, playing with friends).

  • The bigger the vocabulary a child has in Prep the easier it will be for them to learn to read (and understand what they are reading).

  • Vocabulary growth is directly linked to overall school achievement.

How does vocabulary develop?

During early childhood vocabulary develops rapidly and children are learning new words every day. At the age of 4 a child uses around 2000 words, and by 5 they are using 5000 words or more!

Parents play a big role in vocabulary development. The number of words a child is exposed to by his or her parents is directly related to the size of the child’s vocabulary.

Vocabulary develops when a child listens to adults in their life and hears them use new words. This happens during everyday conversations and interactions when an adult uses an unfamiliar word. When adults use new words and talks about what they mean, this helps the child add those words to their own vocabulary.

Children starting Prep learn most of their vocabulary though their parents use of narratives. Narratives are stories about things that have happened in the past, or things that will happen in the future (e.g. what happened on an outing to the park, what will happen on the weekend).

Children at this age also have many ‘why’ questions. Children are curious about the world around them and answering their questions is a great way to expand their vocabulary.

How can you help boost your child’s vocabulary? 

There are many ways you can help expand your child’s vocabulary. Try these to begin:

  • Follow your child’s interests – talk about what your child is interested in. Your child is more likely to pay attention and learn if they are interested.

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat – use new words repeatedly in different ways. Your child need to hear a word many times to first understand it before they will use it.

  • Use actions – using actions, gestures and facial expressions help your child understand the meaning of a new word (e.g. having an exaggerated scared face to teach frightened)

  • Reading – point out key words or new words during a story and explaining what they mean.

Using these strategies will help your child learn to understand and use new words, growing their vocabulary every day! If you have any concerns regarding your child’s vocabulary development or have any questions, contact us as Active Speech Pathology and we will be happy to help!


Hanen (2012) http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Build-your-childs-vocabulary.aspx

State of Victoria Department of Education and Training (2019) https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/discipline/english/literacy/readingviewing/Pages/litfocusvocab.aspx