11 Vocabulary Games For Kids: How To Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary at Home
As parents, I doubt there’s a moment in your child’s life that you eagerly await more than hearing their very first word. When we say, “Point to your mouth” and they point to it for the very first time, we clap, cheer, get excited, and smoother them with praise. As they grow up and develop, their grasp of the English language expands, and they begin to talk more and take part in naturally flowing conversations. By the time they reach the age of four or five and start their schooling journey, it’s easy to assume that their listening and talking skills are all sorted, and instead it’s now time to focus on new skills such as writing and reading.
Sadly, however, this isn’t the case. Listening and talking skills carry on developing, and, as both of these are at the core of both reading and writing skills, it is crucial to continue giving your child the opportunity to practice listening and talking to the same degree as spelling and writing.
So where does vocabulary fit into this? Well, the development of a child’s vocabulary has a significant impact on both reading success, use of language, comprehension skills, and pretty much everything else related to speaking listening, reading and writing; therefore, it’s absolutely essential to take every opportunity to boost your child’s vocabulary at home.
If you’re unsure how to do this, don’t worry – we’re here to help. In today’s post, we’re going to furnish you with ten exciting games to help build your child’s vocabulary, without making them feel like they’re back in the classroom!
11 Games To Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary
#1 – Bingo…Alphabet Style
This game is very similar to traditional bingo, except letters are used instead of numbers. Each player is handed a bingo card that contains a set amount of letters, with each card containing a different combination of letters. However, rather than merely pulling letters from a bag and having players mark them off their game cards, alphabet bingo does things slightly differently. Before a letter is pulled from the bag, a category is chosen – animals, names of objects, foods etc. If a player has the selected letter, they must think of a word that belongs to the chosen category and starts with that letter. For example, if the category was food and the letter was ‘B’, the player might say ‘Buffalo’. If they’re correct, they can mark off that letter. If more than one player has the letter, take it in turns to say different words without repeating the same word. The game continues until one player has marked off all of the letters.
#2 – The Opposite Memory Game
Make a list of 12 pairs (24 words in total) of opposite adjectives (antonyms) and write one word from the list on each ‘game card’ (around the size of a playing card). For example, hot and cold, little and big, tall and short etc. Once all cards have a word written on them, turn them upside down so the word cannot be seen. Take it in turns to turn over two cards at a time, with the aim of finding the matching words. If you turn over two words that do match, e.g. hot and cold, you win the pair, if not, you turn them back over, and the next player takes their turn. Not only is this really fun, but it will also help to boost your child’s short-term memory and improve their “compare and contrast” skills.
#3 – The Box of Mystery
Collect a range of small items from around your house and place them inside a small box. Try to select items that are different sizes, shapes, and textures if possible, e.g. a pen, some cotton wool, a candle, a sponge etc. Don’t let anyone else see what you’ve chosen before you put them inside the box. Blindfold each player before allowing them to place their hand in the box to select an item. Rather than pulling the item out, the player has to describe the item using three or four adjectives. If they know what the item is, they can have a guess, but if they don’t, they can ask the other players for their help. If the player is able to guess what the item is, the next player takes their turn. If they can’t guess what it is after asking for help (limit it to three questions to save time), their turn is over, and it moves on to the next player.
#4 – Build a Face
Draw four large circles on a piece of paper and colour them in using different colours. Once you’ve done that, on a different piece of paper draw lots of different facial features in different sizes, shapes, and colours, then cut them out and lay them on the table next to the faces. In this game, players have to tell other players how to build their face, by providing them with specific instructions which they must follow. For example, “Place the big blue eyes on the orange face”. Players can make it more difficult by giving more than one instruction at once. This game is fantastic for expanding and suing language as players will be forced to describe the facial features accurately, using a variety of adjectives.
#5 – Find What’s Missing
Find between 8 and 10 objects from your home and place on the table in front of your child. Allow your child to look at the objects for around 10 seconds, before asking them to close their eyes. Once their eyes are covered, remove one item and ask them to open their eyes and tell you which object is missing and to describe said item. To make this game more challenging, use items that are similar. For example, if your child has a set of toy cars that have similar patterns or colour, yet are slightly different, use three or four of those. Alternatively, move items into different positions when your child has their eyes closed. This game will not only test their short-term memory; it will also help to boost their use of language and vocabulary.
#6 – Charades with Verbs
This game is exactly like regular charades but with a little twist. Make a list of actions words (verbs) then write each word on a small piece of paper. Fold the pieces of paper up so the word cannot be seed and out them into a hat or bag. The first player selects a piece of paper and has to act out the verb without making sound effects or using words. Other players have to guess what the verb is and receive one point for each time they guess the word correctly. If using this for older children, opt for more complex or challenging words as these will be both harder to act out and guess.
#7 – Funny Sentences
For this game, you’ll need three containers (cups will be fine) and lots of different adjectives (describing words), verbs (action words), and nouns (naming words). Write down lots of different sounds, adjectives, and verbs on small pieces of paper – around 12 of each. Firstly, ask the players to sort the words into the correct containers, i.e. putting the adjectives in the adjective cup, the nouns in the noun cup, and the verbs in the verb cup. Once they’ve successfully done this, the game can begin. Ask one child to choose one word from each cup (without looking) and then use the three words to create a sentence. For example, “The dog loved to dance on the slippery floor”. Children will love this game as they can make up completely silly sentences and say anything they like. It’s a superb way to develop language and have lots of fun at the same time!
#8 – Imaginary Scenarios
This one is really easy to make and play. One a piece of paper, draw between 10 and 20 boxes. In each box, write an imaginary scenario, for example, “ You win a million pounds”, “You get three wishes”, “You’re a dog for one day”, “You’ve got magic powers”, “You can eat one food for a day” etc. Players take it in turns to roll a dice on to the piece of paper, and whichever scenario the dice lands on they must tell the other players what they’d do in that specific situation. Encourage all players to be as descriptive as possible.
#9 – Letters and Categories
This is another game that is easy to make and play. All you’ll need are two pieces of paper, a pen, and a dice. Divide the first paper into 26 boxes, writing one letter of the alphabet in each box. On the second piece of paper, write eight to ten categories. To start the game, the first player rolls the dice onto the letters page and then onto the categories page, to give them a letter and a category. They must then name something that fits into that category that begins with the letter they landed on. For example, if they landed on the letter ‘D’ and the category ‘animals’, they could say the word dog. The next player then rolls the dice on the letter page and must say another word that starts with the letter they landed on, that also fits into the category that the first player rolled. This continues until a player cannot think of a word that fits into the selected category. At this point, the next player in line rolls the dice on both the letter and category pages, beginning the process all over again.
#10 – Another Way To Say…
This game is aimed at slightly older children, but that doesn’t mean younger children can’t join in too. Write different adjectives on post-it notes or small pieces of paper and write a number between one and six in the corner, then lay them out on the table in front of all the players. Ask the first player to roll a dice and choose a word that has that number written on it. The next player must then say three different words that could be used instead of that word in a sentence. For example, if the word chosen was ‘small’, then word such as ‘tiny’, ‘little’, and ‘minute’ could be used.
#11 – Word Meanings
Pick around ten words that your child doesn’t know the meanings of. Write these words in big letters on pieces of paper and place them on the floor in front of your child. Go through each word saying them out loud, showing your child how to pronounce them correctly. Once you’ve gone through each word, pick one word (without telling your child which one you’ve picked), then give your child a definition of that word (make it as simple as you possibly can). Your child must then try and guess which word matches up with the definition you’ve just provided. If they guess correctly, you can remove that word from the floor; if they guess incorrectly, you can move on to the next word/definition. Keep playing until your child has figured out all the definitions correctly. If they find this exercise difficult, give them examples of how the words are used in a sentence. Exposing your child to unfamiliar words is one of the best ways to expand their vocabulary.
How To Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary at Home: A Summary
There you have it, folks! Eleven ways to help broaden your child’s vocabulary from the comfort of your own home…whilst having lots of fun! The most important factor when teaching at home is to make activities as enjoyable as possible. Don’t obsess over your child getting everything precisely right; otherwise, that may cause extra pressure and simply make learning at home not as fun as it should be. Try out different games and additives and see which ones your child prefers, then simply play these as frequently as possible until your child is ready to move onto new and more exciting games!