Kids invent new words – and new uses for existing words – confusing their parents and older family members. Anyone who has seen Gran’s reaction to their favourite grandchild describing something as ‘sick’ – and their confusion – will know what we’re talking about here.
It’s not as if the English language isn’t rich enough. The rapidly expanding Oxford English Dictionary is adding words every year – there’s even been a TV programme about submitting words for the OED committee to consider. The problem is most of us limit the words we use on a daily basis to a few hundred and there are thousands of words that remain a mystery to the average Brit.
It’s not unusual for people to come across words when reading a book or an article that they don’t really know – they have a vague idea of what it means, but don’t bother to check it out. The excuse is that it’s time consuming to dig out the dictionary and look it up – but it takes seconds to type a word into an online dictionary and it’s a great habit to encourage in your kids.
In fact, if it’s normal in your family to pick up the dictionary or Thesaurus to check words out, the kids will follow suit.
If you really want to help your children expand their vocabulary have a word of the day challenge for the whole family. Take it in turns to pick a word that you don’t normally use much (or at all) and challenge everyone to use it three times during the day. Compare notes over dinner.
Don’t stop reading aloud when your children can read for themselves – it’s a great way to share family time and to introduce them to some great literature both older and modern.
Pick some of the best known speeches from the great playwrights, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Sheridan, Noel Coward, Tom Stoppard, Alan Ayckbourn or Alan Bennett for example, and learn them. Discuss what they mean and have a family vote on who delivers their speech the best. Most people have heard the ‘To be or not to be’ speech from Hamlet – or at least part of it, but do they really know what it’s about? Learning about it as a family can make it fun.
If you have a love of words and language, your children will pick that up from you and it will enrich their lives.