Why focus on vocabulary?

Research shows that vocabulary skills are incredibly important and that a lag in vocabulary development puts children at an academic disadvantage before they start their first day of kindergarten. In addition, research identifies the vital role that families play in helping their child develop the vocabulary and conceptual skills they will need over their lifetime.

By age 3, research has shown that children from low-income families may be hearing up to 30 million fewer words than those from higher-income families. The “word gap” contributes to disparities in academic performance, such as kindergarten readiness and achieving grade-level reading.

Say & Play with Words provides resources for family members and caregivers to engage with infants and young children through everyday interactions. Simple conversations or identifying letters, words, colors, and numbers can begin to nurture and grow vocabulary skills. Simple activities in which parents or caregivers talk to children initiates vocabulary building even in newborns. This site provides free resources for making the most of these interactions and giving children a stronger vocabulary foundation toward their academic success.

Facts About Language Development

  • When parents and caregivers talk, sing, or babble back to an infant, those sounds stimulate the synapses in the language development part of the brain, and form the building blocks for the words that child will speak, hear, or read as they grow.
  • Economic background significantly impacts word learning during the early years.
  • Babbling is the first stage of language development.
  • A typical 18-month-old has a receptive vocabulary of about 200 words and an expressive vocabulary of around 70 words.
  • Most children understand approximately 10,000 words by first grade.
  • The number of words children hear by age 3 is an indicator of fourth grade academic success.
  • Boys typically begin talking later than girls and have more language delays. This is also true of twins.
  • Learning two languages at the same time does NOT cause language delays. Bilingual and monolingual children have the same development patterns and have similar total vocabularies.

Say and Play With Words: Grow Smart From the Start

Created by the National Center for Families Learning

With Support From:

PNC Grow Up Great

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