The English language is full of colour, with many different ways of saying virtually the same thing.  Does that mean you should encourage your children to study the dictionary and become familiar with the meanings of even the most obscure words?


Good grammar, reasonable punctuation and fluency are what your child should be developing.  Learning to write fluently is a life-long skill that will benefit them in school, during exams, at University and in their future careers.

However, teaching your child to use the dictionary as an essential tool is a good thing too.  If your child shows curiosity about the meaning of words, show them how to use a dictionary, whether that’s a book on a shelf or the online version.

Explain how a thesaurus works too, so they know how to find the words they want to accurately describe what they’re thinking.

Play word games like Pictionary, Scrabble and Call my Bluff to help them to get comfortable with language and how it’s used.  Maybe have a family word of the day and take turns to choose a word that everyone has to find a way to introduce into a conversation during the day.  Comparing notes over dinner can be fun!

If they use a word incorrectly, don’t just tell them ‘that’s wrong’, instead ask them to check if the word means what they want to say.

Give them challenges such as:

What is the difference between:

  • Your and you’re?
  • Their, there and they’re?
  • Affect and effect?
  • Complimentary and complementary?
  • Continually and constantly?

How would they use a word in a sentence such as:

  • Unique?
  • Absolutely?
  • Innumerable?
  • Dearth?
  • Plethora?

There are all kinds of challenges you can do as a family – as long as the grown-ups play too (nobody says you’re perfect!) and take turns to set the challenges – you might be surprised!