Speech Sounds (Articulation): What to Expect At 3-5 Years
Tats and gogs, widing in tars and lellow sars in the ky…
Did you know that there are 26 letters in the alphabet but 44 sounds? To produce a sound, children need to learn how to coordinate their tongue, lips and jaws. Kids must also learn how to continue producing sounds accurately when sounds are strung together in words.
Young children simplify words because it makes the words easier to produce. It is easier to say ‘”tat”‘ for ‘cat’ because ‘t’ is already in the word. It is easier to “wide” in a “tar” (ride in a car) because “r” is a later-developing sound and it’s easier to put your tongue up at the front of your mouth to say “t” than up at the back of your mouth to say “k”. It is easier to say one consonant sound at the start of a word than two consonant sounds, so ‘stars’ may become “sars” and the ‘sky’ may become “ky”.
Learning to speak is complex and often these ‘mistakes’ are part of typical development. As a guide however, a stranger should be able to understand almost 90% of a 4-5 year old child’s speech
If it’s difficult to understand your child, a speech pathologist can determine whether his or her sound errors are age-appropriate. If your child needs speech therapy, you may:
- Play listening games (long sounds like “ssss” vs short sounds like “p” or “ow” as in ‘down’ vs “a” as in ‘apple’)
- See if your child can hear the difference between his or her error sound and the correct sound (eg. “k” vs ‘t’ for the child who says “tat”)
- Practise making sounds in front of the mirror to see what your mouth is doing
Remember that even if your child can say a sound on its own, she probably won’t start using it correctly in conversation just yet. ‘Training’ tongue and mouth muscles takes practice and time, just like learning to ride a bike or drive a car.
When to Seek Help
Seek help early, don’t wait and see! Well-meaning family and friends may tell you not to worry but you are the expert on your child. If you have any concerns at all about your child’s speech and language development, talk to a speech pathologist!