What we say, and how we say it, is so important for children’s language development. Very young children learn new vocabulary through repetitive input during engaging experiences.  Children with hearing loss need even more exposure to language and concepts before they understand them and can use them in their spontaneous speech. Read below for some tidbits on how and why to develop your child’s vocabulary!

This article discusses how vocabulary development predicts later academic success. It suggests, “early intervention efforts that target the vocabulary skills of very young children are vital to ensuring later academic and life success”.

Incidental vs. explicit learning 

Children learn much about the world around them through incidental learning. They overhear lots of conversations that we sometimes don’t even notice:

  • the cashier telling you how much money you will get back in change
  • you talking on the phone to their grandparents discussing an upcoming trip
  • children on the playground playing an unfamiliar game

However, children with hearing loss can miss out on these conversations. One way we can help our young children with hearing loss expand their vocabulary is by providing explicit learning experiences. This would look like:

  • having your child give the cashier money and explicitly labeling the coins, money and change
  • showing your child pictures of your upcoming trip and explaining to them the steps you will take to travel there (packing, airport, hotel, family members, etc.)
  • discuss the game before or after the playground and fill in the vocabulary gaps and steps that your child may have missed

Tiers of Vocabulary Instruction:

As your child masters early developing vocabulary, you’ll want to keep their vocabulary development on an upward trajectory. We often talk about ‘getting rid of tired words’; this means to use “fresh words” that are new to your child. One way to find fresh words is knowing the different tiers of vocabulary.

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So what does this look like with our little ones? Here’s an example of how you can challenge yourself to use fresh words in place of tired words as your child’s vocabulary expands.


Tier 1 words: bed, sleep, dark, light, night, sleep, pajamas

Tier 2 words:  asleep, blanket, cover, crib, moon, pillow, quiet, stars

Tier 3 words: bedtime, lie (lying, lay), rest, sleepy, tired, wake, mattress, sheet, snore, bedspread, foot (of bed), dream, etc.

Here’s the link to the Basic Vocabulary and Language Guide  by Daniel Ling, which has tiers of vocabulary and language you can use based on different themes you may talk about with your children.

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We love this book:  Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain by Dana Suskind. Dr. Suskind is a cochlear implant surgeon who explains the importance of creating a rich vocabulary environment for your child and the impact it has on their spoken language development.