Top 9 Kids Dictionaries For Academic Success

Does your child have a personal dictionary? If not, now might be a good time to purchase one.

A 2018 Oxford University Press (OUP) survey strongly indicated that vocabulary levels are below age-related expectations in the transition from primary to secondary education. More than half of the 1,300 teachers surveyed reported that at least 40% of students lacked the necessary vocabulary to progress in school. 

According to Oxford University Press, a limited vocabulary can negatively impact students. It affects their academic performance and self-esteem, increases the risk of poor behavior, and leaves education early. This ultimately hampers their prospects.

As a parent, you understand the importance of teaching your children how to read, write and spell to be successful in school and later in life. While you may not expect your child to become the next Spelling Bee champion or whiz-kid, a dictionary is a great tool to expose children to new words and concepts.

Why Get a Children’s Dictionary?

“What about The Compact Edition of The Oxford English Dictionary I bought back in 2001?” I hear you ask.

A dictionary for kids is unlike a traditional dictionary in a few key ways. First, the definitions are geared towards children and are written in simple language that is easy to understand. Additionally, many kids’ dictionaries include illustrations or pictures to help kids visualize the words.

For younger children, dictionaries may include games or other writing activities to keep them engaged and interested in learning English. Now that is something online dictionaries from Google don’t provide.

How To Choose the Right Kids’ Dictionary

There are many different dictionaries available for kids, from general-purpose dictionaries to more specialized dictionaries on topics such as idioms and mathematics.

When choosing a dictionary for your child, consider your child’s age and level of language development. It is also essential to choose a dictionary that is engaging and easy to use. Illustrations, activities, and fun facts can make a dictionary more enjoyable for kids.

What Are Some of the Best Kids’ Dictionaries?

Even though many children’s dictionaries are on the market, not all are created equal. Here are nine kid dictionary recommendations to help spark your child’s interest in learning.

Note: Affiliate links may be used in this post. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my affiliate link.  Read my full disclosure policy here.

1. Merriam Webster’s Elementary Dictionary

When you search for the meaning of any word on Google, I wouldn’t be surprised if Merriam-Webster is one of the top searches that meets your eyes. With excellent resources for adults and English learners, Merriam-Webster also has a stunning children’s printed dictionary.

Ranking #1 on Amazon for “Electronic Dictionaries & Thesauri” is Merriam-Webster’s Elementary Dictionary. However, it is possible to buy the hardcover version. This dictionary is suitable for fourth to sixth-graders and includes more than 36,000 entries. What’s great about this resource is that it doesn’t shy away from more difficult words; rather, it provides clear and concise definitions for these terms. The illustrations are fun and vibrant, which will help keep kids engaged while looking up words.

The dictionary provides information on “headscratchers,” for example, their, there, and they’re, as well as word history, word roots, and synonyms. View it on Amazon here.

2. Spectrum Spelling Workbook

Ranked 3rd for “Children’s Dictionaries” on Amazon, Spectrum Spelling Workbook provides a dictionary with a twist– it is designed to help the learner with their spelling. There is a workbook for each grade level, including kindergarten.

With this workbook, students can practice spelling words and doing the assigned exercises for each unit. They can check the meaning of the words in the dictionary area. It includes more than 200 pages of activities, including word scrambles, crosswords, fill-ins, and more. The words become progressively more difficult as kids navigate the book.

This workbook is a great way to help kids practice their spelling. Spectrum has several other workbooks for sale, including vocabulary, reading comprehension, and

3. My First Dictionary: 1,000 Words, Pictures, and Definitions

My First Dictionary: 1,000 Words, Pictures and Definitions is great for kids just beginning to learn words and their meanings. This visual dictionary includes pictures for every word, as well as definitions, example sentences, and dictionary games. The illustrations are colorful and engaging, featuring nouns, verbs, and adjectives from everyday life.

This dictionary is geared towards a reading level of 3 to 6 years. It is a great way to introduce kids to the world of words. According to reviews, the words are basic, but it’s a fun read.

4. Merriam-Webster’s Word-for-Word Spanish-English Dictionary

For kids who are bilingual or learning Spanish, Merriam-Webster’s Word-for-Word (Spanish to English and English to Spanish) Dictionary is a great resource. It includes more than 53,000 translations and rated top of Amazon’s list in “Spanish Language Instruction,” “Children’s Dictionaries” and “Children’s Spanish Books.”

The dictionary is beneficial for Spanish pupils taking standardized tests in English, and they can use it in Texas STAAR testing classrooms. It has up-to-date trending lingo, with cool words such as “augmented reality,” “Bitcoin,” and “bestie” all added to the mix. It is suitable for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18.

5. Once Upon a Word: A Word-Origin Dictionary for Kids

Once Upon a Word is a fun and colorful dictionary that teaches how the English language evolved by examining word etymology and definition. The stories behind the words are startingly engaging and will keep kids entertained while they learn about language.

The book is geared toward children from grades 4 to 6 but is enjoyed by all. Based on the reviews, this book is a hit for adults and children. So if you want to know where fun words like zombie and spaghetti come from, give this book a whirl!

6. Absurd Words: A Kids’ Fun and Hilarious Vocabulary Builder for Future Word Nerds

Add some razzle dazzle to your vocabulary bank with Absurd Words. Become a stronger reader, writer, and communicator with 750 superb words easily organized by theme, so you know exactly the word you want. Read new terms and see them in context with the provided sentences, images and fun facts.

This dictionary is geared towards kids aged 8 to 12 years old and defines 50 of the most bizarre words in the English language. The definitions are in hilarious, fun sentences that keep kids entertained while learning. Wondrous words such as “eureka,” “vagabond,” and “pantaloons” are all defined in this quirky little book.

7. Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms

Are idioms an uphill climb for your child? This book should do the trick!

The Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms is an excellent resource for kids who want to learn about common idiomatic expressions in American English. This dictionary includes more than 700 entries with definitions and usage examples. The book is geared towards kids in grades 4-7.

Idioms are a tough nut to crack, but this book explains their meaning, usage, and origin. The examples are engaging and will help kids understand how to use these expressions in an entertaining way.

8. Scholastic Pocket Dictionary of Synonyms, Antonyms & Homonyms

Looking for a small pocket dictionary to fit in a middle schooler’s backpack? This dictionary is an excellent resource for kids who want to expand their vocabulary.

The Scholastic Pocket Dictionary of Synonyms, Antonyms & Homonyms will help your little writer find new words to add to their essays. This dictionary includes more than 22,000 entries of synonyms and antonyms. It also contains 2,000 homonyms, so your child needn’t get confused by words like accept and except again! The book is geared towards kids in grades 3-7.

9. Children’s Electronic Dictionary Bookmark

Sometimes kids can’t get off the technology, huh? The Children’s Electronic Dictionary Bookmark may be a suitable replacement for their Nintendo Switch.

To use the electronic pocket dictionary, key in the word you want to know, and the definition will appear on the screen. It has over 30,000 definitions, as covered by the best-selling Oxford Primary Dictionary.

The electronic dictionary is more expensive than the traditional dictionary. Still, it might be one way of keeping kids aged 7+ entertained. The electronic dictionary doesn’t need wifi to work and comes with a battery included.

How Can Kids’ Dictionaries Help With Language Development?

To develop strong language skills and access learning, kids need to have a strong foundation in vocabulary.

A good dictionary can help kids to expand their vocabularies, learn new words, and understand word meanings. Dictionaries can also be a great resource for kids who want to know common idiomatic expressions, synonyms, and antonyms.

By providing definitions, usage examples, and fun facts, kids’ dictionaries can be a valuable tool for spelling, writing, and other aspects of language development.

In Conclusion

These are just a few of the best kids’ dictionaries on the market. The most important thing is to find a dictionary your child will use! If they’re not interested in the book, they’ll unlikely reap many benefits. So, take some time to browse different dictionaries and find one that’s right for your child. 

You’re sure to find one your child will love with so many options available. With a bit of help from a dictionary, your child will be well on their way to becoming a vocabulary wizard!

Do you have a favorite kids’ dictionary? Please share it in the comments below!

This post originally appeared on Hello Sensible

Caitriona is a private language tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. Caitriona has been teaching the English language since 2016. She has taught in schools in Spain and the U.K., and she currently teaches online. On her blog, you will find tons of English language articles, worksheets, resources, tips, and advice for learners and teachers.