Two Valuable Ways to Expand a Preschooler’s Vocabulary Without Reading


Reading and conversating are by far the two most popular ways to increase a child’s vocabulary, and for very good reason. To acknowledge reading’s importance, I have provided an infographic that represents in numbers just how important it is to read to children.  Between Student 1, 2, and 3, who would you presume to have the strongest vocabulary? Then I created an infographic for you with reasons why reading actually works. They correlate. I’ve never met a preschooler who didn’t like spending time with mom and dad reading; my own thrive on the attention! And statistically, children do better in both math and reading when when mom and dad spend time reading with their children. Kara, my three year old, could read for days sometimes.


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But lets talk about two more valuable ways to expand a preschooler’s vocabulary. Ways in addition to, not instead of, reading. Why? Because my three year old also learns with senses other than hearing.  In fact, she thrives! She retains information faster and stronger when all of her senses are being used. Smelling the flowers for the letter F, tasting salt for the letter S, or hearing laughter while learning the letter L. If she retains information quicker this way with letters… my theory rests that she will thrive in all aspects, including vocabulary, using this method.


Two Valuable Ways to Expand a Preschooler's Vocabulary Without Reading


My 3 Year Old Speaks Like a 6 Year Old

My 18-month old is non-verbal, and Kara recently tested vocabulary and speech averaging the level of a 5-6 year old, with some 7-8 year old skills in her grasp. Say what? I’m so proud of myself…. I am incredibly proud of her! I came into the parenting thing knowing nothing. And, I can’t really boast that I did much research to be honest. I didn’t buy a single parenting or pregnancy book. I just…. do. I play with her.  I do with her. And, it works!


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So then, What is my Secret?

Its simple. While we do read….. a lot, and are also taking part in the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten challenge that we started just before she turned three ….. we use all of our senses. We talk about everything very descriptively.  In some ways, I read to her to remind myself of new words to use in daily vocabulary with her. Prior to the activities we do, I review a list of descriptive words for myself.  Of course, I don’t show her the list. She can’t actually read most things… especially new words. So what do we do?


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And I invite you to print off the list of words I review when it comes to our sensory bins. I change the list up from time to time, and I don’t include every word every time. But, I try to include words on the list that I don’t use every single day.


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1. Compare

2. Contrast


Comparing and Contrasting objects, activities, themes, crafts, people, or anything else under the sun is by far my favorite way to introduce vocabulary to my daughter. Why? Because I find that nouns are the easiest things to introduce. Tangible things… weather they be places you can show on a map or objects you can hold in your hand are simple to introduce. It goes like this:

Kara: Mom? What’s that place we went to?


Kara: Mom? What’s that right there? I can’t remember what its called.

((and yes, she speaks that clearly))

The second easiest things to introduce are verbs for us. Running. Playing. Laughing. They can all be seen. The third easiest thing for me to introduce to my three-year-old, is surprisingly… emotion. While sometimes children have difficulty expressing emotion, my child finds ease in identifying emotion. She will ask me if I’m angry. She will tell me, “I’m going to the couch because you are frustrated.” She will vocalize, “I need you to sit with me because the thunder scares me.” What I find difficult to teach her are intangible words, often times descriptions. I took five chemistry courses in university. I am well aware of what solid, opaque, translucent, and clear mean. But, do I use them regularly speaking to my three year old? No. So instead, I review my list before we do a descriptive activity and then try implementing a couple of new words for her.  Remember, I’ve done this since birth basically. I didn’t just start with this activity, but it really works for us!


Take a look at this FALL SLIME ACTIVITY below

Leave me a comment me and let me know what you think! Try implementing some the concepts above during your activities and let us know how your child responds. Feel free to adjust the word list to words that are suitable for your child! And for older children, this could be a great activity to introduce vinn diagrams to as well. I initially found the recipe for this slime here:. I’m not 100% sure why, but each time I do this experiment with Kara, which we’ve done 3-4 times previously, we have different consistency results. I’m tempted to do an experiment for myself to find out why, but that’s for another day. I’m wondering if its’ because I’ve mixed in a bowl instead of a cup, and the borax reaction occurs before all the water can be absorbed.

How We Did It

It’s cheap, and fun. We keep Borox in our home to wash clothes with because we have hard water. So, 1/2 a table spoon of our huge box of borax might as well be free. Then I stock up on school glues at back to school sales… $0.44 a piece. If you use white glue, use 5 oz (which could make an amazing ghost slime!) If you use clear glue, use 4oz. Add 1 tbsp of water to the glue. Add any sensory objects or decor you wish at this point, along with food coloring if desired. In a separate cup, add 1/2 teaspoon borax to one cup of HOT water. I’ve found it dissolves better in hot than warm water. And slowly stir in the water to the glue until the consistency is much thicker. Do not add additional borax thinking it’ll speed it up. You’ll end up with basically concrete (hah!). Then kneed

Here are a few other links to more fall slime ideas:
Frankenstein’s Phlegm
Witches’ Brew
Glitter Monster Slime
Bat Slime

Dana, a good blog friend of mine over on The Art Kit Blog recently posted a topic on sensory bags. I want to share these bags specifically since my favorite way to include my 18mo old and my 9 week old in this activity was to put the slimes in bags (pictured at the bottom) and allow the younger two babies to explore through the bag (I don’t want the 9week old having access to the borax yet, and Noah needs more attention than I can offer all the time). So take a look at her sensory bag suggestion and let her know what you think!

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  1. Dana | The Art Kit

    Love the suggestions on increasing vocabulary! And the slime looks so fun!!

    1. (Post author)

      My kids seemed to think so! I will warn you, the super clear one? After 30-45 minutes of play looked almost YELLOW and nasty from skin cells and other dirt and scum I assume.

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  3. Brooke Grangard

    Yes, it’s amazing how much kids pick up as we spend time with them talking. Thanks for sharing this post! (And I think my littles would love the slime!!)


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