Vocabulary Games

Throw away those flashcards and enjoy easy vocabulary games that build vocabulary naturally!   They key here is YOU, the parent. Your child can’t learn vocabulary without you.

Below are my top 4 vocabulary games for all toddlers. At the end of this page, there is a crash course in vocabulary development. Don't skip it!

1. Reading

Reading is BY FAR the best “game” for vocabulary development.

Children’s books are full of pictures with a variety of new words (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs). 

However, how you read to your child is critical. Just reading a story straight from the book isn’t the best strategy. You MUST interact while reading. The technical term is called “shared reading.”

Click here for more information on how to read to your child.

2. Playhouse, farm, school, store

Playing with a playhouse, farm, school, store, or kitchen is a great way to:

  • introduce new, functional vocabulary words
  • show how words relate to each other 
  • practice social skills

Farm Example: If you are playing with a farm, you can introduce new animals to your child and talk about how the toys are “farm animals,” not pets. You can talk about where farm animals live, sleep, and eat.

Your child will learn:

3. 20 Questions

The classic game “20 Questions” is a WONDERFUL language game for older toddlers up to adults! It incorporates categories, descriptions, and associations.

If your child is just starting to talk, don’t write this game off yet. Here me out. 

How to play 20 Questions:

  • One person thinks of an object and the other person has to guess what it is by asking yes/no questions. 
  • If you want to be strict, you only have 20 guesses/questions.

MY TWIST:

  • Don’t use yes/no questions. Yes/no questions are “dead end” questions. 
  • For younger children, allow them to ask.... What color is it? Where do you see it? etc...

ANOTHER TWIST:

  • Give 20 hints about the mystery object to your child.
  • I like this one for younger toddlers.

4. Treasure Hunt

This is one of the more exciting vocabulary games. Go on a treasure hunt! 

How To Play:

  • Hide things around the house amd have your child find them. 

My Twist:

  • Give only descriptive clues. 
  • For example, if you hide something under the couch say “the treasure is under something we can sit on. It is big and fluffy.” 
  • The purpose is to indirectly teach your child about “description.” See below for more information.

Importance of Vocabulary

Vocabulary or more accurately “word knowledge” is the foundation for all communication. It the basis for expressive language (speaking), receptive language (understanding spoken information), reading, and writing abilities!!!

Word knowledge is about understanding the whole concept of a word and how a word relates to other words. Many children with language delays have incomplete word knowledge.

Example

Being able to point to a dog in a picture doesn’t mean your child necessarily knows what a dog is. 

For children under 5 years of age, it is important to know:

  1. Category - What group does it belong to?
  2. Function - What does it do?
  3. Association - What goes with it?
  4. Description - What does it look like?

Complete definition of a dog:

  • A dog is an animal (category)
  • It barks, runs, eats (function)
  • It is furry, hairy, big or small (description)
  • Leash, food bowl, bone goes with it  (association)

Need vocabulary games for a child OLDER than 5?

For children over 5 years of age, check out vocabulary games for adolescents. 



Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series



› Vocabulary Games

Reference

  1. Justice et al. Learning New Words From Storybooks: An Efficacy Study With At-Risk Kindergartners. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch.2005; 36: 17-32. Retrieved online on 8/1/2013.