Speech Sounds

It takes around 8 years for children to master all the speech sounds in the English language. With only 26 letters in the English alphabet, children have to learn 42 different sounds!! Many of these are vowel sounds (eg., ay, ee, oo, or, er, and so on) which are typically mastered without any intervention and at a fairly early age (around 3 years). Consonant sounds (eg., p, f, sh, z, y, and so on) follow a developmental progression. Many sounds are typically mastered by 4 years of age, but there are still others that take longer to become established in children's speech. The chatter of many 2-3 year olds can be difficult to understand at times, especially to unfamiliar people, but by the time a child reaches 3-4 years of age, they are usually easy to understand almost all of the time. By the time children reach school age, they will need clear speech to help them speak confidently in front of others, to make their ideas and beliefs understood, and to help them develop early reading and writing skills. Research tells us that children with significant speech sound difficulties are at greater risk of developing reading and writing difficulties in the early school years. Speech sound difficulties can be caused by a variety of factors...

The following information will give you a general idea of speech sound development, typical patterns of error, and things to look out for.

Your 2 year old child

A typically developing 2 year old should be able to use the following sounds in their speech:

m n b t d w h

Most 2 year olds are generally quite difficult to understand. You may hear lots of sound errors in their speech that are very typical for this age, such as...

It is never part of typical development for a child to...

Your 3 year old child

A typically developing 3 year old should be able to use the following sounds in their speech...

m n p b t d w h k g y

At 3 years of age, a child is generally easy to understand about 75% of the time. It is still typical for them to have errors, such as...

By around 3 1/2 years it is usually not typical for a child to...

Your 4 year old child

A typically developing 4 year old should be able to use the following sounds in their ...

m n p b t d w h k g y s z f l (and sh ch j by 4 1/2 years)

At 4 years of age a child is generally easy to understand all of the time, although some errors may still be present, such as...

At this age it is generally not typical for a child to...

Your school-age child

In Kindergarten most children will learn to use r and v correctly in their speech. The th sound may come in Kindergarten or a little later (generally between 6-8 years of age). There should be no other errors in their speech sounds and generally a Kindergarten child can talk clearly and confidently.

Checklist of speech sound development

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to seek advice from a speech pathologist.