5 Effective Ways To Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

5 Effective Ways To Build Your Child’s Vocabulary

by The Kidz Parade


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A strong vocabulary paves the way for a child’s ability to learn, their ability to understand the world and their ability to communicate effectively with other people. The more words they know, the more they are able to make sense of what they learn. Now, what can you do to build your child’s vocabulary? Research shows that a child needs to see the usage of a word 5-7 times, before it is stored in their long-term memory. Here are some specific tips to make the vocabulary acquisition more fun.

Word Games

Children learn vocabulary the best with repeated exposure and opportunity to practice that in a non-threatening atmosphere. Games are best to enforce the words after you introduce it to them. You can do inexpensive ways to play games like synonym cross word puzzles, Word search, Scrabble. There are many online sites where you can play interesting and engaging vocabulary games with your child. If you need more, you can find some cool vocabulary games here.


Peer Reading

Introduce your child to the vocabulary used by their peers. Reading literature by children is the best way to do that. This will give them the motivation and confidence to learn and use new words. Reading the works by peers will also inspire them to focus more on writing. You will be able to find a lot of such literature at Kidz Parade literature by children and The Kidz Parade.


Keep and Idea Book or Journal

Does the word ‘journal’ put off your child? Introduce the concept of an ‘idea book’ to them instead. Let them write all their aspirations, imaginations and observations in that book.

Encourage them to write lists if they do not want to write long paragraphs, ask them to write only a couple of sentences every day when they start with, ask them to write about something close to their heart. You will see your child building vocabulary and writing skills gradually. Research shows that writing journals has both physical and psychological benefits while improving their writing skills and vocabulary.


Read aloud to your child (even if they are older)

Jim Trelease, the author of Read-Aloud Handbook says, “Children have a reading level and a listening level and they are usually not the same. A 4th-grader may be reading on a 4th-grade level, but can listen to stories on a 6th-grade level.”

You can read aloud to older children, even to those who are upto 14 years. Reading aloud to teens helps them with finding the right vocabulary to express their emotions. This is a great bonding activity, while building your child’s vocabulary.


Talk, Talk and Talk: A very effective way to build your child’s vocabulary

Learning words is helpful only if it is practiced. Have conversations with your child in various topics. This will give them the opportunity to listen to new vocabulary as well as to express their thoughts using the new vocabulary. Communicating with people with varied interests is also a great way to acquire new vocabulary.



Successful Kids have a Strong Foundation in the 3 R’s

Successful Kids have a Strong Foundation in the 3 R’s

by Dr Shen Li Lee



There is more to success than academics, but I believe there are three key basics that you can’t do without – the 3 R’s (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic), although why they call it the 3 R’s is beyond me. Yes, the 3 R’s are important. Every parent knows that. Why would I even have to write about it?

1. Reading

Given the recent concerns about the declining rate of functional literacy, ensuring that the next generation is able to read well should be a concern of every parent. If learning to read is a natural skill that all children will master in time without intervention, then why are literacy rates declining?

Literacy is important for future success because if you can read, you can learn anything. Reading is knowledge. Reading is power. Suffice to say, it would be tough to get through life as we know it without being able to read. Reading is a skill that every child should have – not only just to be able to read but to be able to read well.

2. WRiting

This is another skill that seems to be diminishing in this digital age. As much as we’d like to think that writing is becoming obsolete because we can now type letters on a keyboard, it isn’t quite as simple as that. Handwriting provides developmental benefits that are not realised with typing. Here are some reasons why handwriting is important:

  • Handwriting helps develop reading skills – the kinesthetic approach of writing is a powerful memory aid to facilitate letter recognition. Having to image a letter before writing it also reinforces letter recognition.
  • Handwriting trains the brain – it improves idea composition and expression and may aid fine motor-skill development. Handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter whichactivates massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.
  • Why handwriting is important – changes how children learn, affects brain development, develops memory, and even engages different brain circuits compared to typing.
  • Cursive benefits go beyond writing – it improves brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing.

3. ARithmetic

Why is Math important for future success? Firstly, mathematical problems exist everywhere in our daily lives – we use it when we are working out our change to pay for groceries, we use it when we’re measuring out ingredients to bake a cake, we use it when we’re determining how much more time we have before we are supposed to meet up with a friend, and I could go on and on. Suffice to say that numbers are everywhere. Secondly, most jobs require at least a basic proficiency in math, and if you want to do science, engineering and research, then you had better be good at it! Thirdly, a good mathematical knowledge helps us make better economic and political decisions. Fourthly, Math is a great subject for developing problem solving skills, logical deduction, and reasoning. These are skills are beneficial because they can be translated to many other areas of our lives.



How to Raise a Brilliant Child in Reading

How to Raise a Brilliant Child in Reading

by Shen Li Lee



I dreamt I stood in a studio,
And watched two sculptors there.
The clay they used was a young child’s mind,
And they fashioned it with care.

One was a teacher—the tools she used,
Were books, music, and art.
The other, a parent—working with a guiding hand,
And a gentle loving heart.

Day after day, the teacher toiled
With a touch that was deft and sure.
While the parent labored by her side,
And polished and smoothed it o’er.

And when at last, their task was done,
They were proud of what they had wrought.
For the things they had molded into the child,
Could neither be sold nor bought.

And each agreed they would have failed
If each had worked alone,
For behind the teacher stood the school,
And behind the parent, the home.

– Author Unknown

How can we help children with reading at home? Here are some tips a school sent me which I felt was very handy so I have shared it here…

Place and Time

  • Select a place that is quiet and peaceful.
  • Choose a time when your child is not tired, hungry, or really keen to do something else so you can enjoy reading together.

Image Source: Pinterest – Lisa Chance

What should you read?

  • Choose something of interest to your child.
  • It should not be too difficult.

Be Encouraging

  • Accept your child’s efforts.
  • Avoid criticism, threats, and comparisons with other children.
  • Try to relax and stay calm. Stop the session if you feel yourself becoming frustrated and read to your child instead.

Praise Your Child

  • When your child reads well.
  • When your child corrects herself after making a mistake.
  • When your child reads a word correctly after you have provided help.
  • When your child reads easy books silently to himself (these should be books he can read without making mistakes).

How often?

  • 4 to 5 times a week is ideal.
  • 10 to 15 minutes each time suits most children.

Providing Help

When your child makes a mistake that doesn’t make sense

  1. Wait and let your child solve it if she can.
  2. Ask one or two questions about the story to help him think of the meaning.
  3. Keep the story going by telling your child the word if it is still incorrect.

When your child makes a mistake that does not really change the meaning of the sentence

  • Some children lose confidence if you correct every mistake they make so you will need to decide whether the mistake really matters, and whether your child will lose confidence if you try to help her correct it.
  • If you decide not to correct it, let your child continue reading without interruption.
  • If you decide to correct the mistake:
    • Ask your child to think about the way the words looks. For example, does the word begin the same way as other words he knows Are there any parts in the word that your child already knows?
    • Tell your child the word if she has not corrected it after two attempts.

When your child comes to an unknown words and says nothing

  1. Wait and let your child think about the story.
  2. Suggest that your child go back to the beginning of the sentence, or
  3. Ask your child to think of a word which begins the same way as the unknown word, and makes sense in the sentence.
  4. Tell your child the word if he still does not recognise it.

When your child is not interested in the story

  1. Read the first few pages to your child, and talk about the story together, or
  2. Help her find a story that is of more interest to her.

When the story is too long

  1. Take turns reading, alternating with your child so that you read every second page (or chapter), or
  2. Help your child find a shorter story.

Questions to ask your child to help with Fiction books

I particularly like this section because it helps children to think about the stories they read. If your child is an aspiring writer, like mine, it helps him learn to think about the impact of a story and how to improve his own stories.

For the emergent reader

  • Where does the story take place?
  • When did the story take place?
  • What did the character look like?
  • Where did the character live?
  • Who are the key characters in the book?
  • What happened in the story?
  • What kinds of people are there in the story?
  • Explain something that happened at a specific point in the story.

For the developing reader

  • If you were going to interview this character/author, which questions would you ask?
  • Which is your favourite part? Why?
  • Who would you like to meet most in the story? Why?
  • What do you think would happen next if the story carried on past the ending of the book?
  • Who was the storyteller? How do you know?
  • Predict what you think is going to happen next. Why do you think this?
  • Is this a place you could visit? Why/why not?
  • How is the main character feeling at the start/middle/end of the story? Why do they feel that way? Does this surprise you?

For the beginning reader

  • Were you surprised by the ending? Is it what you expected? Why/why not?
  • What is the main event of the story? Why do you think this?
  • How has the text been organised?
  • Why do you think authors use short sentences?
  • How did you think it would end/should end?
  • Has the author used an unusual layout in the text? If so, describe it and say why you think they did this?
  • Has the author used a variety of sentence structures?
  • Has the author put certain words in bold or italic? Why have they done this?

For the expanding reader

  • Why did the author choose this title?
  • Do you want to read the rest of the text? How does the writer encourage you to read the rest of the text?
  • Can you find some examples of effective description? What makes it effective?
  • Which part of the story best describes the setting?
  • Can you find examples of powerful adjectives? What do they tell you about a character or setting?
  • Can you find examples of powerful adverbs? What do they tell you about a character, their actions or the setting?
  • Can you find examples of powerful verbs? what do they tell you a bout a character, their actions or the setting?
  • Find an example of a word you don’t know the meaning of. Using the text around it, what do you think it means?

For the bridging reader

  • Can you think of another story that has a similar theme? For example, good over evil, weak over strong, wise over foolish?
  • Why did the author choose this setting?
  • What makes this a successful story? What evidence do you have to justify your opinion?
  • How could the story be improved or changed for the better?
  • What was the most exciting part of the story? Explain your answer as fully as you can.
  • What genre is this story? How do you know?
  • What was the least exciting part of the story? Explain your answer as fully as you can.
  • When the author writes in short sentences, what does this tell you?

For the fluent reader

  • Does you know another story which deals with the same issues? For example, social, cultural, moral issues?
  • Have you ever been in a similar situation to the character in the book? What happened?
  • How would you have felt in the same situation?
  • What would you have done differently to the character in a particular situation from the book?
  • How would you feel if you were treated in the same way as the main character?
  • Have you read any other stories that have similar characters to this one? If so, which story was it and what happened?
  • Do you think this book is trying to give the reader a message? If so, what is it?

Photo Credit: Pinterest – Andrea Knight

Questions to ask your child to help with Non-fiction books

For the emergent reader

  • What is the text about? what is the title of the text? Who is the author of the text?
  • What kind of things would you expect to see in this book?
  • Can you find examples of different features of this text type?
  • Find something that interests you from the text. Explain why you chose that particular part.
  • Where would you look to find out what a technical word means?
  • What is on the cover of the book? What does this tell you about the content inside?’

For the developing reader

  • Which parts of the book could help you find the information you need?
  • When would you use the contents page in the book?
  • When would you use the index page in the book?
  • What sort of person do you think would use this book?
  • When might someone use this book? Why?
  • Can you suggest ideas for other sections or chapters to go into the book?
  • Do you think the author of the book is an “expert” about the topic of the book? Why/why not?

For the beginning reader

  • Can you find an example of a page you think has an interesting layout? Why did you choose it?
  • Why have some of the words been written in italics?
  • What are the subheadings for?
  • Why have some of the words been written in bold?
  • How does the layout help the reader
  • What is the purpose of the pictures?
  • Can you find examples of words which tell you the order of something?
  • What kind of text is this? How do you know?

For the expanding reader

  • Why does this book contain technical vocabulary?
  • Find an example of a technical word. Read the sentence it is in. What do you think it means based on how it has been used in the sentence?
  • Are there any examples of persuasive language?
  • Why do we need a glossary in a text?

For the bridging reader

  • Why has the writer written this text?
  • Have you found any of the illustrations, diagrams or pictures useful? Why/why not? Try to explain fully.
  • Why did the writer choose to present the information in the way they did?
  • How could the information be presented better?
  • What makes this text successful?
  • Are there any features that it hasn’t got? Why do you think it doesn’t have them?
  • Can you think another text that is similar to this one? What are the similarities and differences between them?


Approximate Number Sense: Preschoolers can do Algebra without learning How to

Approximate Number Sense: Preschoolers can do Algebra without learning How to

Apparently, some preschoolers who are able to do Algebra before entering secondary schools may not necessarily be genius after all. At least, this is what this study found out.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences found that most preschoolers and kindergarteners, or children between 4 and 6, can do basic algebra naturally. What was more surprising was that these children were either learning to count or had only just started to attend school. They used a system called ‘Approximate Number System:’ their gut-level, inborn sense of quantity and number.

What is Approximate Number System?

Also known as ‘number sense’, it describes humans’ and animals’ ability to quickly size up the quantity of objects in their everyday environments. Some preschoolers with naturally better number sense will tend to go on to have better math achievements and this number sense will peak at 35 years of age.


RELATED: Want Better Math Results? Get Your Kids to Exercise

How the Study was Conducted

In the study, children sat down individually with an examiner who introduced them to two furry stuffed animals – Gator and Cheetah and each of whom had a cup filled with an unknown quantity of items. The items were buttons, plastic doll shoes and pennies. Children were told that each character’s cup would “magically” add more items to a pile of objects already sitting on a table.

However, the children were not allowed to see the number of objects in either cup: they only saw the pile before it was added to, and after, so they had to infer approximately how many objects Gator’s cup and Cheetah’s cup contained.

At the end, the examiner pretended that she had mixed up the cups, and asked the children — after showing them what was in one of the cups — to help her figure out whose cup it was. The majority of the children knew whose cup it was, a finding that revealed for the researchers that the pint-sized participants had been solving for a missing quantity, which is the essence of doing basic algebra.

What was interesting to note was boys and girls answered questions correctly in equal proportions during the experiments. In short, the myth that boys were better at maths did not hold water.


RELATED: Motivation, study habits – not IQ- determine growth in math achievement

Then Why is Algebra so Difficult for Teens?

With preschoolers able to handle algebra naturally, one reason that researchers guess why algebra is difficult for teenagers is due to the memorized rules and symbols for the various algebra formulas.  One way to tackle this problem, researchers suggest, is to encouraging students to harness ANS before introducing and mastering symbols to trip them up.

Another thing to note is that while the ANS helps children in solving basic algebra, more sophisticated concepts and reasoning are needed to master the complex algebra problems that are taught later in the school age years.

Melissa M. Kibbe, Lisa Feigenson. Young children ‘solve forx’ using the Approximate Number System. Developmental Science, 2014
Why Play is Extremely Important for Your Child

Why Play is Extremely Important for Your Child

This childcare is unlike any other childcare that I have seen. Their curriculum structures around  a play-based one and children learns academics at a slower pace. Worried parents have enquired if they are making the right choice of enrolling their child in this school as they are afraid that they are unable to catch up to others in competitive Singapore. “If they are so slow, how are they able to maximise the child’s potential in learning?”

The word ‘Potential’ is a highly dangerous word. When a parent believes that their child has ‘potential’, their first instinct is to cramp as much enrichment and academics down the child’s throat to ensure that they maximise their fullest ‘potential’. Yet what happens if one is to take a step back and provide structured play instead? Will the child still benefit as much?

But do play really benefit learning? How do they do it? Are there evidence?

Play improves memory, stimulates the Growth of the Cerebral Cortex and BNDF

Although this experiment was conducted on rats, it did raise some interesting insights. When neuroscientists separated two groups of rats and placed them either in solitary confinement or exciting, toy-filled colonies, they found that rats which were placed in the latter environment had thicker cerebral cortices than did the former group (Diamond et al 1964). The results were confirmed when they replicated the experiment. Bonus: they were able to find their way out of mazes quicker as well. (Greenough and Black 1992)

When rats were allowed to explore, they found that their brains also showed an increase in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF) (Gordon et al 2003).  BDNF is essential for the growth and maintenance of brain cells.

Kids pay more attention to Academic Tasks when they are given Frequent and Brief Opportunities for Free Play

When children are given time to play without directions from adults and be truly playful for 10 to 20 minutes, they come back more refreshed and pay more attention to academic tasks. Recesses that are more than 20 minutes may have the opposite effect instead.

While exercise is known to provide cognitive benefits, structured physical education classes are not effective substitutes for free playtime (Bjorkland and Pellegrini 2000).

Playdates Improve Language 

When scientists studied a group of British children aged 1-6, they found that children, who were able to substitute a teddy bear for an absent object, scored higher for language skills – both receptive language (what a child understands) and expressive language (the words she speaks). These results remained significant even after controlling for the age of the child.

When psychologist Edward Fisher investigated 46 published studies of cognitive play, he discovered that children who play and pretend together (sociodramatic play), tend to show improved performances  both cognitive-linguistic (language) and social affective (emotions) domains.

Promotes Creative Problem Solving

In life, sometimes it is not about getting that 1 correct solution for a single problem; it is able to find out different solutions for a single problem. Psychologists distinguish two types of problem–convergent and divergent. A convergent problem has a single correct solution or answer. A divergent problem yields itself to multiple solutions.

Research found that when children were given blocks (e.g. Lego) instead of puzzle pieces, they were able to perform better on divergent problems and showed more creativity in their attempts to solve the problems (Pepler and Ross 1981). Interestingly, it seemed to show that children who were trained to solve divergent problems showed increased rates of pretend play and vice versa.

Pretend Play Regulates Emotions

When your child indulges in pretend-play, their ability to self-regulate (impulses, emotions, attention) and reason increases.

When children pretend play together frequently, they must conform to a set of rules, and practice conforming to such rules might help kids develop better self-control over time. These frequent interactions also provide with valuable opportunities to improve their reasoning  for “What-if” scenarios and make inferences about events that have not actually occurred.

Block Play Predicts Your Child’s Math Ability

When scientists tracked the complexity of children’s block play at age 4 and then tracked their academic performance through high school (Wolfgang, Stannard, & Jones, 2001), they found that the more complex their blocks were used as preschoolers, the better their math grades were. The results were maintained even after they discounted the children’s intelligence.

Playful experiences are learning experiences

Finally, lest anybody doubt that kids learn through play, we should keep in mind the following points.

1. Most play involves exploration, and exploration is, by definition, an act of investigation.

When children play, they are often testing out something in that process – be it controlling of emotions during pretend play or just even testing out their own hypothesis which they form while testing out the structure of blocks or magnets.

2. Play is self-motivated and fun.

When true learning takes place, it occurs when one is having fun. If we are learning and it is perceived as a chore or duty, we are not able to be fully and happily immense in the quench for knowledge.

3. An Outlet to cope with Real Life Challenges.

Children often make use of knowledge of what they learn and apply them into real life. Children as young as 3 are able to make distinctions between realistic and fanciful pretending, and use information learned from realistic pretend scenarios to understand the real world (Sutherland and Friedman 2012; 2013).