Ways to Build Preschool Vocabulary!

stack of booksWays to Build Preschool Vocabulary!

It’s important for preschoolers to be able to use spontaneous vocabulary. Children who only imitate vocabulary are not actually learning the vocabulary words. Below are some ways to build your child’s vocabulary at home.


Synonym Substitute

Substituting synonyms for common words in your daily conversations with your child is a great way to build up his/her vocabulary in an easy way and gets him/her thinking about the different ways he/she can describe things.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Big: large, huge, enormous, tremendous, jumbo, monster

  • Little: tiny, teeny, small, compact, mini, miniature

  • Good: excellent, great, wonderful, marvelous, fantastic

  • Bad: poor, awful, terrible, lousy

  • Soft: mushy, doughy, gooey, spongy, squashy, smooth

  • Hard: firm, stiff, rigid, tough, strong

  • Tall: high, lofty, towering

  • Small: tiny, petite

  • Car: automobile, vehicle, motor vehicle

  • Fun: enjoyment, entertainment, amusement,

  • Happy: cheerful, merry, jolly, gleeful

  • Sad: sorrow, gloomy

As your preschooler starts to use these new words in their everyday vocabulary, challenge them to come up with some of their own.

Use Descriptive Words

When it comes to increasing your child’s vocabulary, more is better. The more words that your child hears on a daily basis, the more they will learn, absorb and eventually put to use. It’s a simple theory and an easy one to put into practice. So when you talk to your child, be as specific as possible. “Bring me your shoes,” can be “Bring me your pink shoes that tie.” Do you want to go for a walk?” turns into “Do you want to go for a long walk outside where we can look at the blue sky and colorful flowers?” Use as many words as you can (within reason).

Become a Label Maker

If you want your preschooler to learn more words, then make it easy. Say them often, sure, but show them too. Build on his/her basic comprehension of well-known words by labeling all of these commonly-used items so he/she learns to recognize what the word looks like. Your preschooler knows what a window is. They know bed and bath and television. Take your child’s comprehension one step further by labeling all of these commonly-used items so they learn to recognize what the word looks like. Use name tags (“Hi, my name is COUCH”) or index cards and tape and place them on everything in the house that your preschooler encounters on a regular basis. Leave nothing blank -carpet, refrigerator, sink, door, table, chair, toilet, closet, etc. Talk to your child about them. Ask your child what the object in question is and then point to the word. After a week or so, try taking the cards down and make a list with your preschooler. See which ones your child remembers. Then, compare the list with the cards and ask him/her to match the cards with the words on his/her list.

Rhyme Time

Rhyming is a great way to teach your child new words and an easy way to get them to think about how words can relate to each other. Rhyming sets the foundation for your preschooler to learn about word families and the different sounds that letters can make.

There are a number of rhyming games you can play at home or on the go:

  • Set a bunch of objects on the table — a hat, a toy and a book for example. Ask your preschooler which items best completes the sentence: “The boy played with the…” Continue with all the items you have laid out.

  • In the same vain, lay out items on the table, making sure all of the items rhyme with at least one other — a hat, a stuffed cat, a toy, a boy doll, a clock, a sock — and ask your preschooler to pair or group the items that rhyme together.

  • Toss or roll a ball or beanbag to one another, exchanging rhyming words with each turn. Even if your preschooler comes up with a nonsense word, it’s OK, you just want him/her to get the idea behind how rhyming works.

  • In the car or on the go, say a few words to your preschooler like ball, tall, bat and clock. Ask which ones rhyme.

  • Point to items wherever you are — sink, car, tree, etc. — and ask your preschooler to name something that it rhymes with.

  • If you are reading a book that has rhymes, ask your preschooler to complete the sentence.

Why is “R” So Hard to Say?

R for rhino

Answers to Questions Parents Ask About the “R” Sound


Why is making the “R” sound so hard for some children?

The “R” sound is hard for some children because it is difficult to see the tongue when you say it and it is hard to explain to a child how to make it. Th “R” sounds like the “B” in “ball” and the “F” in “fish” are easier because you can show and tell a child to “put your lips together” to make a “B” or “bite your lower lip” to make an “F.” Additionally, the “R” sound is difficult because other sounds in the word may influence the way the “R” sounds and the way you say it. Look in the mirror and try saying these words slowly: robin, horn, and cover. Notice how the “R” sound looks and feels different as you say each word. In horn and cover, the “R” sound is different because of the vowels next
to it.

Why is making the “R” sound so important?

“R” is important because it is a high frequency sound, meaning that it occurs more often in the English language than other sounds. Only the “N” sound and “T” sound occur more often (Shriberg & Kwiakoski, 1983). A child who has difficulty producing the “R” sound is sometimes hard to understand and may sound immature to his/her peers. This may embarrass the child and make it difficult to speak in social situations.

When should my child produce the “R” sound?

Many children can say a correct “R” sound by the time they are five and a half years old, but some do not produce it until they are seven years old. In general, if your child is not producing the “R” sound by the first grade, you should consult with a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).

Please note: Many school districts have different criteria for when an SLP can treat an “R” sound. If this is the only sound the child cannot say, some may begin in first grade when the child is six or seven years old, and others may wait until the child is seven or eight years old in second grade.

What can I do to help?

If your child has difficulty saying the “R” sound, you should consult with a certified Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). If your child does not have an SLP at his/her school, then you may go to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (ASHA) website (www.asha.org/findpro) to locate a professional in your area.

In the meantime, you can help your child to hear the “R” sound by playing this simple game. Say an “R” word correctly (rabbit) or incorrectly (wabbit). See if your child can identify the word with the correct “R” sound. Keep score for every “R” word your child hears correctly. Here is a list of “R” words to get started: ring, rain, rock, road, rat, wrap, wrist, reach, rule, ride.

Also, when your child says the “R” sound incorrectly, try not to be negative about it or make them try to repeat it correctly. In most cases, you will only be reinforcing an incorrect production of the “R” sound. His/her inability to produce a correct “R” sound may become frustrating. Instead, restate what your child said, and say the “R” correctly for him/her. For example, if your child says, “That ball is wed,” you can say, “Yes, that is a red ball” and emphasize a correct “R” sound.


Maintaining Speech and Language Skills over Summer Break

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-2-57-57-pmMaintaining Speech and Language Skills over Summer Break


Summer break is here! For many students who receive speech/language services, the break from school also means a break in treatment. During summer recess, parents can help their children maintain communication skills learned during the school year. Providing your children with fun, engaging activities is a great way to make practicing skills more enjoyable and less of a “chore” during their break!

Below are some fun suggestions for speech and language activities to do with your child during the summer. A great way to keep track of practice days is to have a summer calendar where you place a sticker or draw a smiley face on each day you work on speech/language skills with your child. Before using any of the following suggestions or doing other activities, be sure to talk with your child’s speech-language pathologist (SLP). The SLP can provide you with goals to work on, strategies for maintaining specific skills, and materials to practice with, such as word lists or worksheets.


  • Practice word lists in the car. Have your child practice his/her “sound” by saying target words during car rides. Have him/her repeat a word five times at each red light or stop sign.
  • Create a sound book. Help your child make a book of words, pictures, or words and pictures that contain his/her target sound. Put one target word on each page and review the book every week.
  • Read comics. Read comics from books or newspapers with your child. Use a highlighter to mark words that contain his/her target sound.


  • Go to the library. Sign your child up for the local summer reading program at the library. As he/ she reads each book, ask questions like “Who is the main character?” “What do you like about this story?” “How do you think it will end?” “What was your favorite part?”
  • Keep a journal. Have your child keep a journal of summer events. If your child cannot yet write, have him/her draw pictures to tell stories. You can have him/her tell you the story and you write it in the journal.
  • Play board games. Encourage social skills like turn taking, being a good sport, and topic maintenance when playing board games as a family.

Have a great Summer!

If you have any questions or concerns, click here to contact speech language pathologist Christine Wilson.