Kid-Friendly Dictionaries

Valorie Delp
Golden Picture Dictionary
Golden Picture Dictionary

Using a kid friendly dictionary will not only help boost your child's dictionary skills, but it can also help your child learn more effectively through the age appropriate presentations that a dictionary designed for kids has to offer.

Kid Friendly Dictionary Types

When you think of a kid friendly dictionary, you may think of a reference book that has words and their definitions. However, the world of dictionaries delves much deeper than that. There are several types of dictionaries for kids.

Subject Specific Dictionaries

There are numerous dictionaries available for specific subjects. Whether you need math help or grammar terms, there are subject specific dictionaries that can tell you just what you need to know. You can consider it a glorified glossary.

A dictionary that concentrates on just one subject is obviously smaller, but it contains a lot more in-depth information. For example, a math dictionary will have mathematical terms as well as examples of more complex problems and illustrations of some concepts.

The advantage to owning several subject specific dictionaries lies in this wealth of information presented. Consider purchasing a specific subject dictionary for any subjects in which your child is heartily interested and for subjects that your child finds very difficult.

Dictionaries for Little Ones

Preschoolers like their own dictionaries too. Kid friendly dictionaries that are designed for preschoolers have many pictures and simple, large printed words. These special dictionaries are often made of board book material so they will withstand some abuse. Sometimes they are written in themes such as an animal dictionary. Choose anything that your preschooler finds interesting.

Student Dictionaries

Student dictionaries are abridged versions of more adult dictionaries. With guidewords on top and entries looking more like your standard Merriam-Webster, students can use these dictionaries for homework or to practice their reference skills. Some student dictionaries still contain some pictures but for the most part, student dictionaries are simply smaller versions of more adult dictionaries. The most recent versions may even be Internet-linked, offering appropriate sites that a student can visit for further investigation.

Online Dictionaries

The next generation of kid friendly reference tools is the online dictionary. There are several places to go online when you need to look a word up. What is especially nice about online sites is that they tend to offer more than just a simple word search function. For example, Merriam-Webster's word site for kids offers games, vocabulary words, and a host of other activities to help budding wordsmiths. There are several other online dictionary sites for kids that have similar features:

Yahoo Kids' Dictionary - Similar to Miriam Webster's Word Central but of course powered by the Yahoo! search engine. - Offers both a beginner and children's version of their dictionary.

Little Explorers - A dictionary for preschoolers with pictures and links to activities.

Purchasing Kids' Dictionaries

With all the choices, deciding what to get might be a little overwhelming. Keep in mind your child's needs. There are many excellent choices, and the following list is by no means comprehensive but rather a sampling of what is out there.

Webster's New World Children's Dictionary

Colorful and interesting to look at, Webster's New World Children's Dictionary is a great purchase for a child between 3rd and 6th grade. The dictionary is comprehensive with age appropriate words but also offers tables on grammar and spelling as well as brief snippets on the etiology of some of the words.

The Essential Guide

This is a series of subject specific dictionaries that is part dictionary, part glossary, and part reference book of just helpful information. For example, the math dictionary, has terms as simple as addend and quotient, but it also explores statistics and probability and gives examples of problem solving strategies for word problems.

Oxford Picture Dictionary

Bilingual dictionaries are becoming more common among the standard picture dictionary genre. The Oxford Picture Dictionary is organized into thematic chapters such as "my house", "my community" etc. The pictures are engaging scenes with lots to look at, and of course, everything is labeled in both English and Spanish.


Of course, the folks at Merriam-Webster publish one of the best children's dictionaries on the market. Merriam-Webster's Elementary Dictionary is comprehensive for the age level and is a good bridge between a more standard dictionary and a picture dictionary for younger learners.

Using Kids' Dictionaries

Although you may have suitable dictionaries for your child, that doesn't mean that he will use them. Encourage your child to use the dictionary by having him look stuff up rather than simply asking a question. If you do this consistently, before you know it your child will look things up before coming to ask you for the answer!

Kid-Friendly Dictionaries