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Lockdown Day 77 – Compound Words


It is important to keep children engaged in and aware of the words they use. Being a good role model in terms of using a rich vocabulary and providing opportunities for developing your child’s comprehension is important. Over the past weeks we have looked at many activities to support this. Recently we looked at the parts of speech, identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives and others, to highlight the importance of individual words in our everyday dialogue.

Today we are going to look at words within words. Compound words are fun to dissect and can offer possibilities for introducing new words and their meanings.


Compound words are formed when two or more words are put together to form a new word with a new meaning. There are three types of compound words.

  • CLOSED compound words are formed when two unique words are joined together. There is no space between them and they are the type that generally comes to mind when we think of compound words. Example: lipstick, basketball, windmill.
  • OPEN compound words have a space between the words but have a new meaning when they are read together. Example: ice cream, post office.
  • HYPHENATED compound words are connected by a hyphen. These compound words are often used as adjectives in describing a noun. Example: a high-speed chase, a part-time teacher.


This is an activity that can be done anywhere, anytime. Driving in the car, for example, you may pass a windmill. Firstly, ensure that the child knows the word windmill and associates it with what s/he sees. If it is a new word to the child’s vocabulary, take some time to talk about it. Encourage the child to say the word ‘windmill’ and ask the child if s/he can hear the word ‘wind’ and the word ‘mill’.

If the child is a bit older and is familiar with the word, ask if s/he can hear two different words in the word ‘windmill’. Sometimes it is helpful to start by giving the child part of the word, for example, “I can hear ‘wind’ in the word windmill. What other word can you hear?”

Continue the conversation – what is ‘wind’? What is a ‘mill’? Primary-aged children may like to research what a mill actually does and why windmills were so important before the age of machines.

Younger children will also enjoy the ‘fun’ that comes with the practical exploration of compound words. You could play a different version of a compound word guessing game by showing the child (for example) a tub of cream and some ice cubes and asking the child to think of the compound word that this represents (ice cream). Point at your lips and hold a stick (lipstick). Point at the sun and a flower (sunflower). These conversations can be extended by discussing how the roots of the compound words may have come about. I.e. A lipstick is a stick-shaped object that we apply to our lips.

Bear in mind that you want to provide the child with age-appropriate words that help them understand the world around them and are relevant to their time, place and culture. Here are some examples to get you started.

* Early compound words 

  • toothpaste                                                      
  • lipstick                                                             
  • playground                                                     
  • doghouse                                                        
  • handshake                                                      
  • sunflower  
  • firefly
  • moonlight
  • railroad   
  • candlestick
  • cartwheel
  • dragonfly
  • eyeball
  • fingernail
  • hairband
  • hotdog
  • milkshake
  • ponytail
  • starfish
  • watermelon
  • wheelchair

* Later compound words

  • midnight
  • daydream
  • brainstorm
  • earthquake
  • busybody
  • soundproof
  • makeup
  • airport
  • boardwalk
  • bodyguard
  • superstar
  • tablespoon
  • timekeeper

Understanding the roots of words, is a clever way to really know our language!


Find all of our lockdown tips here –