This paper explores the role and effects of explicit vocabulary instruction in primary foreign language education. Authentic and semi-authentic texts are used to demonstrate how meaningful learning activities foster communicative competence in the phases of contextualisation, focussing, practice and use of FL instruction. Written and spoken performances of young learners are analysed to exemplify learners’ communicative competence and to discuss meaningful teaching and learning scenarios. The effects of explicit vocabulary instruction are fleshed out based on insights from cognitive linguistics and used to justify a contextualised approach making use of larger lexical junks. To provide an example, the story “Finn the Fox” and its methodological implementation are presented. Moreover, a design for the development of lexical inventories to support CLIL in primary FL education is presented.