How Does Vocabulary Develop in Children

By superadmin on June 6, 2022 in Blog

Vocabulary is important in understanding and describing concepts. After all, we need words to describe how we feel and to understand what other people are saying. With a set of vocabulary common to many of us, we can communicate and cooperate more effectively whether in small groups or entire societies. 

Vocabulary development in children

Because vocabulary is foundational (i.e. vocabulary is often required for literacy, numeracy and other early skills), its development is crucial to children. As they learn more words and attach those words to certain objects, emotions and events, they can better make sense of the world around them. 

Early vocabulary development often happens through conversations, interactions, playtime and story reading. Our brains automatically associate and connect one concept to another. And through repetition, the associations and connections become reinforced. It’s somehow similar to reading a dictionary and memorizing some words and their meanings (i.e. we associate a word to other more familiar words). 

We mentioned earlier that vocabulary is foundational. As a result, it’s crucial that children continue to rapidly expand their vocabulary through the months and years. This way, they will be better equipped in learning math, science, arts and other fields. This will also enrich their understanding and appreciation of the stories we tell them. 

It’s common to see and expect babies at 12 months old to know only two words. By 18 months, it’s expected to be 10 to 50 words. At 2 to 2.5 years, it could be 300 to 450 words. At 5 years, children already know at least 5,000 words. Notice the exponential growth in just a few years. 

This exponential growth is expected because as children understand more words, they become more equipped to learn and understand more. They have more familiar words to attach to unfamiliar ones. As a result, they can quickly expand their vocabulary and better express themselves. 

The key to healthy vocabulary development is through regular interactions both at home and in the early learning centre. As mentioned earlier, our brains automatically form associations and connections and this happens through rich interactions with the environment and other people. This is crucial to the children’s early years when rapid brain development occurs.