3 Ways to Build Vocabulary at the Dinner Table

Try one of these dinnertime activities to help your kids develop their language skills.

By Jodie Rodriguez
Mar 16, 2017



Mar 16, 2017

Dinnertime at our house is one of my favorite parts of the day. It's a time when we all come back together and share our successes and challenges. Lately, I've been using our meal as an opportunity to help our kids build their vocabulary.

Here are three activities you can try with your own family to help your child learn new words. There is very little preparation involved, making it easy and convenient to do.

1. Use the Word

Write vocabulary words on slips of paper and keep them in a jar or basket on the dinner table. You could use words that your child is studying in school, or pull a few words from books you are reading to him. Each night, choose one word from the word basket and read it aloud. Define the word in kid-friendly terminology. For example, if the word is flexible, a kid-friendly definition would be, "something that is flexible moves or bends easily without breaking." If you start with something that or someone who, you will be on the right track.

Then, each person at the table takes a turn naming something that is flexible or not flexible. On my turn, I could say, "A rope is flexible." Or I might say, "My pencil is not flexible." Continue around the table giving lots of examples and non-examples of the given vocabulary word.

2. How Many Can You Name?

In this activity, one person names a category — such as fruits, zoo animals, or things shaped like squares. Then taking turns, each person names a word that fits in that given category. If the category is "things shaped like squares," possible answers could be windows, books, or sticky notes. Switch categories when no one else can add a word to the named category.

3. Draw the Word

To extend the activity above, you could also play Draw the Word. Have some blank sheets of paper or a pad next to each place setting. In my family, we like to cover our table with butcher paper before setting it for dinner. You could add a container of crayons or markers as the centerpiece. After dinner, select one vocabulary word from the word basket. Again, talk about the word in kid-friendly language. Then, each of you will illustrate the word on the paper. Everyone around your table should take a turn explaining their drawing.

I hope you are inspired to spend a little extra time at the dinner table talking with your child about new words. It's a great way to build his vocabulary and bond as a family.

Featured Photo Credit: © monkeybusinessimages/Thinkstock

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