3 Things to Keep In Mind When Teaching Your Child a New Word

When adding new words to your child’s vocabulary, it’s important to understand the 5 components of language:

  • Semantics(understanding the meaning of the word)
  • Phonology(being able to say the sounds that make up the word)
  • Pragmatics(Knowing when and how to use the word to communicate)
  • Syntax & morphology (using the word in grammatical correct ways)

For early communicators, we should focus on the first 3 components – semantics, phonology, pragmatics. That means, we should help them learn:

  1. the meaning of the word
  2. how to make the sounds in the word
  3. how and when to use the word 

For example, if you want to teach your child the word “WATER” here are some ways you can use the components of language to help you –


  • Talk about food and water, e.g., Mommy is drinking WATER in a big cup, you’re drinking WATER in a small cup, when we’re thirsty, we drink WATER, let’s drink cold WATER.


  • When talking about the target words, draw the child’s attention to your face, and over-articulate the word as you say it so the child can watch your mouth move and learn how to create the sounds that make up the target word. Sit in front of a mirror with the child and practice saying the word together.  Take turns taking sips of water out of a cup and say “ooooooh-aaaaah-ter” (water with an exaggerated “wa” sound).


  • Show a picture of food & water before mealtimes and when the child seems hungry or thirsty. Have the child point to which one he wants – food or water. Help the child point to “water” each time before you give him water. If the child points to the picture on his own, let him know that you received his message by confirming, “you want WATER!”

Using the components of language can help our kids not only understand the word, but also be able to say it, and learn how and when to use the word to get their needs and wants met!

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