What Is Core Vocabulary?

Are you a parent looking for some strategies to help you work on speech and language skills at home? Or are you an SLP looking for early intervention resources to give to caregivers? Today I am going to teach you all about Core Vocabulary. But first, I need to answer the question: What Is Core Vocabulary?

Pretend you are suddenly forced to move to another country where you are unfamiliar with the language. What kind of words would you want to learn first? Do you think it would be more helpful to learn words like, “milk”, “cracker”, or “pencil”? Or would it be more important to learn words like “eat”, “go”, and “help”?

If you said eat, go, and help, you chose something called Core Vocabulary Words. Core Vocabulary Words are the words that are used most frequently in any given language. They are made (mostly) up of verbs and pronouns. These words can be used in many different ways across different situations. For example, you could use the word help with a few gestures to indicate that you need help opening something or that you need help finding something.

Here is a list of core vocabulary word examples for speech therapy.

If you said milk, cracker, and pencil, you chose something called Fringe Vocabulary Words. These words are not used as often, and can really be used to talk about one thing. They also are usually nouns. If I say “pencil”, I can really only tell you about that pencil. Fringe Words are not a versatile as Core Words.

Now think about this. What words would help your child get the most bang for his buck? Probably the Core Vocabulary Words.

Fringe Words are not bad. We need them to help our phrases and sentences make sense- so don’t feel like you need to omit them. However, if you have to choose a word to emphasize-choose the Core word. For example, if you are helping your child put away cars, focus more on the word “put” instead of the word “car”. Put would be the Core Word. “Car” would be the fringe word.

Here is a list of fringe vocabulary words for speech therapy.

This is most important for caregivers who are focusing on modeling 1–3-word phrases with their child. If you have to pick 1 word to model for your child, choose a Core Vocabulary Word. As your child learns more words, begin adding in the Fringe Vocabulary Words that are most functional for your child.

I also want to warn you about something. If you do a quick Google search to learn more about Core Vocabulary you will probably see a lot of articles about Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) systems. This is a great approach for children using these systems. It is also a great approach for any child learning language– so don’t let those articles confuse you or make you second guess yourself.

I really hope you found this helpful. I would love it if you would share this post with anyone who is looking for ways to easily work on speech therapy at home with their toddler or preschooler. Additionally, I have some parent handouts with over 20 different strategies. They were created by me (a Real SLP-Mom) so they are practical and effective. I walk you through each strategy and how to use it at home. There is also a Spanish version and an English version.  

**Quick Disclaimer: The ideas shared in this post are meant to educate and help caregivers feel more confident implementing speech therapy-type activities at home. They are not intended to be a substitute for speech therapy with a licensed SLP, as each child has unique needs.**

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