What is Vocabulary?
Vocabulary refers to all of the words that we know. There are four different types of vocabulary:
1. Listening Vocabulary: Words you understand if you hear someone else say them.
2. Speaking Vocabulary: Words you are able to use during conversational speech. These are words you have easy access to.
3. Reading Vocabulary: Words that you understand if you read them in a text.
4. Writing Vocabulary: Words that you are able to use in writing to tell about something or elaborate on a point.
In speech pathology, we also often talk about receptive and expressive vocabularies. Expressive vocabularies would be anything you can say/use. For example, if someone shows you the picture of something you can name it and if someone asks you what something is called you can come up with the word. Receptive vocabulary would include any word that you understand. For example, if someone says “point to the picture of the baboon”, you could find that from some choices.
What Should My Child’s Expressive Vocabulary Be?
According to the Linguisystems Milestones Guide, children should have the following number of words in their expressive vocabularies. Keep in mind that these are estimates so if your child is close, don’t worry about it. It’s only when a child is far from knowing this many words that we should begin addressing the issue.
Age ~ Approximate Words in Expressive Vocabulary
12 mos ~ 2-6 words
15 mos ~ 10
18 mos ~ 50
24 mos ~ 200-300
30 mos ~ 450
3 years ~ 1,000
4 years ~ 1,600
5 years ~ 2,200-2,500
6 years ~ 2,600-7,000
12 years ~ 50,000 (Wow!)
How to Teach New Vocabulary
These resources will give you some guides on teaching new vocabulary words:
I also have an e-book that has detailed lesson plans, sample goals, data collection, activities, handouts, and worksheets for 39 different speech and language skills, including many resources for vocabulary. It’s a great overview of how to teach a variety of topics related to speech and language:
Using Themes to Build Vocabulary
Many children benefit from learning new vocabulary words based on a certain theme. By doing several activities around the same theme, you are giving the child multiple exposures to those words as well as building upon previous knowledge that they have of the topic to learn new words (scaffolding). This page will give you a ton of fun themed activities that you can use to build vocabulary:
Printable Materials for Vocabulary Building
Many of the materials in my speech therapy materials line have built-in vocabulary activities. You can improve vocabulary by using any of these products for free!
He Does, She Does Pronoun Game: Several common objects included, good for early vocabulary building
Funny Faces Game: Body Parts Vocabulary
Opposites Game: Adjectives and Describing Words
What Do You See? Basic vocabulary game, early words
Brown Bear Story Prop: Animals and Habitats
Tell Me About It: Adjectives and Describing Words
Where Does It Go? Spatial Concepts and Location Words
Road Trip BINGO Games: Fill it out with whatever vocabulary your child is working on
Mood Thermometer: Emotion and Calming Words
Verb Flashcards: Verbs and Action Words
Past Tense Verb Flashcards: Verbs and Action Words
First Words Flashcards: Early vocabulary with sign language signs on the back
Preschool Flaschcards: Preschool words grouped by categories, with wh- questions on the back
I Want More!
Please feel free to join my mailing list. I send out periodic emails filled with great speech and language activities and resources.