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When should my child be making each speech sound?

Children learn to speak at a very young age. While at first it may not sound like what we think of as “speech”, they communicate through other means: cooing, babbling, “jargon”, or “jibberish”. As your child’s communication continues to develop, they start using a variety of speech sounds within words. Speech sound development often follows a predictable pattern or natural progression for mastery of these skills. It is important to remember that speech sound development can vary from child to child, and it’s ok if your child’s speech sounds develop just a little slower than others!


Developmental Speech Sound Milestones


From birth-5 months, babies communicate by making certain sounds to express pleasure and displeasure including laughs, cries, and fussing noises. They are primarily playing around with vowel sounds. At this age, babies will also begin to make noises when they are spoken to.


At 6-11 months of age, consonant sounds begin to emerge with the presence of babbling. There are two types of babbling: reduplicated babbling and variegated babbling. Reduplicated babbling includes use of the same syllable repetitively. For example, “babababa”, “mamama”, or “dadada”. This type of babbling usually develops first. Variegated babbling comes next and includes mixing a variety of different syllables in speaking. For example, “bada”, “mada”, or bada”.


Age 12-17 months will bring imitation of simple words and 18-23 months will be the beginning of early developing sounds within words, usually in the beginning position of words.


Most speech sounds develop between the ages 2 to 6 years old; but, as we mentioned, there can be variability in speech sound development and speech can develop before or after 2-6 years of age as well. Keep reading to take a look at the typical progression of speech sounds development within words.

2-3 Years Old


Toddlers are often difficult to understand, as they are learning the different speech sounds and how to communicate with others. Two-year-olds still make many speech errors, but these are considered developmentally appropriate. By the time a child turns 3 years old, they should generally be able to produce the following sounds:

Speech Sound

Example

P

Pie, Open, Top

B

Boy, Table, Cab

M

Me, Hammer, Home

N

Night, Penny, Horn

W

Wet, Owl, Tow

H

Hat, Dollhouse

T

Tie, Bottle, Knot

D

Dog, Body, Bad

K

Cane, Chicken, Cake

G

Go, Bagel, Pig

NG

Singer, King

F

Farm, Taffy, Elf

Y

Yarn, Royal

4 Years Old


At preschool age, children continue to learn many speech sounds, and the clarity of their speech is improving! Speech errors are still common and appropriate at this age, but 13 total speech sounds should now be said correctly. As a child approaches age 4, children should generally be able to produce the following sounds (in addition to those above!):

Speech Sound

Example

L

Lemon, Bowling, Bell

S

Sun, Whistle, Bus

Z

Zipper, Lizard, Buzz

V

Van, Shovel, Love

J

Jump, Pages, Orange

SH

Shoe, Wishing, Wash

5 Years Old


At this age, a child’s speech continues to improve and their speech repertoire should include most sounds. Correct production of speech sounds will be of great importance as they begin learning to write and read. By the time a child turns 5 years old, they should also be able to produce the following sounds:

Speech Sound

Example

TH (voiced)

There, Mother, Bathe

ZR

Treasure, Garage

R (prevocalic and vocalic)

Radio, Garden, More

6 Years Old


A child’s speech at this age should be continually improving, with one final sound learned when they are 6 years old. By the time a child turns 7, most speech sounds should be produced correctly and they should acquire the following sound:

Speech Sound

Example

TH (voiceless)

Think, Toothfairy, Booth

Please remember, these speech sound milestones are to be used as a general guide to help you determine if your child’s speech is developing appropriately. If you’re concerned about your child’s speech sound development or have any questions at all, we can help! Reach out to us here.


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