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How can I improve my child’s vocabulary?

24th May, 2024

How can I improve my child’s vocabulary?

A question I am often asked, usually in preparation for the 11 plus or entrance exams, but which is useful for all children (and adults!). There’s lot of things you can do to help.

read / peruse / pore over


The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss


Reading is probably the best way to learn new words, and possibly the most fun.

Read from a variety of sources. Books – fiction and non-fiction. Newspapers (online or paper), blogs. Try to read with your child, read to them and have them read to you or perhaps a younger sibling.

It’s through reading that we learn about life, whether real or make-believe.


“Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.” ― Lemony Snicket


As well as the usual suspect, Harry Potter, one of my favourites is Lemony Snicket – Series of Unfortunate of Events for his playful use of words. Google more of his quotes / extracts and see what I mean.

Discuss with your child what you have read. Have your child tell you about their latest book, the characters and how they are feeling. What do they think will happen next?

dictionary / lexicon / word list

I certainly wouldn’t sit down to read a dictionary or thesaurus, but it is always useful to have one to hand.

Language is forever evolving, with new words being added to ‘the dictionary’ every year, and others falling into disuse.

With the growth of tech, most adults (and children) will usually use an online dictionary to check word meanings, spellings and antonyms. (I know I do!)

But for children, there is a need to have the skills to look up a word, understand alphabet order, and read from paper.

Taking that extra time to look something up means you are more likely to remember it, so I always recommend having a dictionary and thesaurus in book form.

The average adult dictionary is generally difficult to use and interpret, so I have recommendations for a dictionary and thesaurus for children (ages 8-15).

explore / scout / investigate

Explore words – pick a ‘word of the day’ and try to use it. All day. Perhaps set a challenge with your family, whereby everyone has to guess what your word is?!

Be ambitious / aspiring / enterprising. Try not to use ‘nice’ or ‘good’, but think of as many synonyms as you can.

Synonyms for nice : pleasant, enjoyable, lovely, kind, delightful, amusing ….

Synonyms for good : fine, satisfactory, enjoyable, worthy, obedient, admirable….

The antonym of antonym is synonym

synonym – a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language

antonym – a word opposite in meaning to another

play / entertain / recreation

Play word games. Learning through play is important, and even as adults we should make time for this.

Play all the classics, e.g. Scrabble, crosswords, wordsearch, etc – all available in books, newspapers and the ubiquitous internet.

If your child has access to a tablet / phone then download an app so they can expand their lexicon.

My current favourite word game is Wordle. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, the link to play this every day can be found at New York Times Wordle.

recommend / advocate / endorse

But if you are preparing your child for the 11 plus or entrance exams and you want to improve their vocabulary?

Whizz Opposites

I can thoroughly recommend a card game called Whizz Opposites and/or Whizz Match.

A surprisingly simple card game, which can be played solo, and seems to encourage even the most reluctant students to look words up in a dictionary / thesaurus!

Whizz Match 11 Plus
Nicola Bhalerao - Warwick Tutor

About Me

My name is Nicola Bhalerao and I am a private tutor based in Warwick. Since 2013, I have provided one-to-one tuition for children and adults. I specialise in maths tutoring, but cater for different requests, ranging from 11+ / entrance exams to various uses of maths, e.g. : interviews, job promotions, GCSE retakes, Functional Skills, nursing, teaching – any situation where confidence in maths is required.

My background is in computing, with a Computer Science degree from Warwick University. I have worked many years as a programmer, latterly in the games industry. Both my sons were tutored by me for the 11+ (they went to a local grammar school). I received training for teaching secondary school maths and I am fully CRB checked.

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