As children learn to talk, they learn to use a range of different speech sounds. From babbling as babbies (e.g. ba ba ba) to trying out words and eventually using adult-like speech, it’s an exciting process. It is normal for kids to make some speech sound errors as they are learning to talk (e.g. “tat” instead of “cat”). But when should these errors stop? When should children be able to use correct speech sounds?
Ages and stages
Some speech sounds are easier to say than others and some sounds develop later than others. Here is a basic guide from Speech Pathology Australia:
- By age 2, your little one should be able to say most vowel sounds (e.g. oo, ar, ee) and a range of consonant sounds ‘m, n, p, b, k, g, h, w, t, d’.
- By age 3, your little one should also be able to say ‘k, g, f, s, ng’
- By age 4, your little one should be able to say most sounds including ‘f, y, s, z,ch, j, sh, l’ and some consonant blends (i.e. two consonant sounds togethere.g. sp, br, gl)
- By age 5, everyone should be able to understand your child’s speech easily. Your child may still have some difficulties with ‘l’, ‘r’ and ‘th’ sounds.
- By age 7, your child should have no remaining speech errors.
Strategies to encourage speech sound development
If you notice your child making a speech sound error in conversation (e.g. “tat” for “cat”), model the correct word once (“Yes it’s a cat”). Casually ask your child if they would like to ‘have another go’ but don’t force the correct response. It will kill the conversation if you fixate on the target sound or word for multiple tries. It also makes your child’s attempt to participate in a conversation a negative experience and will encourage him to participate LESS in future. Model the sound once, then continue the conversation.
Want to know more? Check out these awesome free fact sheets from Speech Pathology Australia:
- The Sound of Speech: 0– 3 years
- The Sound of Speech: Preschool and School Aged Children
Should you have any further questions or are concerned about your child’s speech sound development, please get in touch with one of our speech pathologists.