What is Core Vocabulary and How Can it Help My Child?

Posted by Krystie Yeo on

The inability to communicate strikes all of us at some point in our life. Whether it's due to stress, embarrassment, or lack of sleep, it's sometimes difficult to put our thoughts into words.

For some children with special needs, this kind of communication block is present all the time. That's why it's so important to give your child simple but effective words that help them say what they need to at any given moment.

The best way to achieve this is by teaching your child a core vocabulary. If you're uncertain what this means or why it's so important, keep reading. We'll go into greater detail down below to give you all the tools you need to get started.

Understanding Core Vocabulary

Although there are over 1 million words in the English language, we only use a small percentage of that daily. It's possible to have entire in-depth conversations with only a handful of words.

The idea of a core vocabulary list takes this concept and narrows it down even further. It uses the base words we use every single day and scrubs away all the fluff until we're left with the most important words. 

These words are short and simple, such as go or stop, which makes them easy to learn and repeat. Added to their simplicity is their power to get a message across in a split-second. As your child gets used to this concept, a core vocabulary opens up the door to more intricate conversations in the future.

Why This Concept Is Important

Core words are useful tools that are easy to reinforce throughout normal day-to-day activities. They're easy to learn and easy to use, which makes general communication less stressful for the entire family.

Using a single core word or by combining two or three, your child will have the chance to say what is necessary at all times.

Even though this basic list of words is not expansive, each word is powerful in the way it gets its meaning across. Beginning to learn to communicate with a strong foundation like this makes learning more complicated sentences easier in the long run.

This idea isn't only important for your child. It's also important for you. With the core vocabulary approach, you'll learn how to communicate with your child in a way that never confuses him or her.

Examples of English Core Vocabulary Words

To show this idea even further, we'll go through a couple of examples of great starting core words. We'll also show ways that those words can be put into use in a variety of different activities and situations.


This word is one of the most powerful words a child can learn. Without the means to be expressive in an effective way, this word allows your child to protest against something.

Many children rely on disruptive and even harmful means of protesting, but 'stop' gives them a better alternative. They'll have a way to tell you when they want to stop doing an activity and when they find something aggravating.


In contrast to the previous word, this one allows for affirmation. It's easier to say than the word 'start', which makes it better for children beginning to learn communication.

With the help of this word, your child has the chance to let you know when they want to leave a place or when they want to start an activity. Swinging, running, and dancing can all start with the word 'go'.

Turning on music during a game is a great way to start learning the word 'go'. It allows your child to participate in fun games while still exercising their new core vocabulary words.


This word is a versatile tool for any child to learn. It pairs up with other words in a natural way that allows for greater learning and vocabulary expansion, such as with 'get that' or 'get up'. It's also useful in a wide variety of different activities.

It helps your child learn how to request an item that's out of reach, and it gives them a way to ask for something specific. If they have a preferred toy, they'll let you know that they want to get that one in particular. It also allows your child to let others know when they need you, such as with 'get mom' or 'get dad'.

How to Start Teaching Your Child

Start by picking a few words that seem the most appropriate for your child's general activities. Choose words that will convey useful information for both you and your child during that activity.

Starting with single words is easiest. Use demonstrative actions that show the meaning of that word in a somewhat exaggerated but clear way so that your child understands and remembers. Then, have your child use the word on their own to get the result they want.

For example, keep turning up and down the volume of a radio, using the word 'up' and the word 'down' when you do so. Then have your child use those two words to tell you to change the volume of the radio.

This not only shows the core words in action, but it also gives your child a chance to use them so that they'll recall those words later on. Take care to monitor your child throughout the exercises. Whenever things get too stressful or frustrating, take a break and try again later.

Find ways to incorporate your core vocabulary list into normal activities and your child will become more comfortable with them every day.

Focusing On the Core Words Leads to Better Communication

By knowing a core vocabulary, you're giving your child a great foundation for better communication. Even knowing a few of these words helps out in countless situations.

If you've ever struggled to try and communicate with your child, try out some of these simple words. It takes determination from both you and your child to learn this different way of talking with one another, but it's well worth the effort.

Make sure to check out our core vocabulary resources to get you both off to a great start on this communication journey.


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