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Typical speech sound development

Children develop speech sounds over time, with words gradually sounding more like the adult version.  

The following is the typical pattern of developing speech sounds:

By two years, sounds typically used are:

  • b, d, m, n, w
  • a range of vowel sounds

Some two year olds might have difficulties with:

  • All other sounds, including: k, g, s, f, sh, l, r
  • Missing consonants at the ends of words
  • Long complex words that are difficult to say, e.g. helicopter

By two-and-a-half years, sounds typically used are:

p, b, t, d, m, n, w

Some two-and –a half-year olds might have difficulties with:

  • All other sounds including: k, g, s, f, sh, l, r,
  • Long complex words that are difficult to say

By three years, sounds typically used are:

  • p, b, t, d, m, n, w, h

Some three year olds might have difficulties with:

  • All other sounds including: k, g, s, f, sh, l, r,
  • Long complex words that are difficult to say

By three-and-a-half years, sounds typically used are:  

  • p, b, t, d, m, n, w, h
  • Possibly starting to use k, g, s, f

Some three-and-a-half year olds might have difficulties with:

  • sh, z, v, ch, j, l, r, th
  • 2 consonants together, like fl, sp, sm, gr, str
  • Long complex words that are difficult to say

By four years, sounds typically used are:  

  • k, g, s, f, p, b, t, d, m, n, w, h
  • ‘s’ clusters: sm, sp, sn, st, sk

Some four year olds might have difficulties with:

  • sh, z, v, ch, j, l, r, th
  • Other consonant clusters: fl, fr, gr, gl, str, spl
  • Some longer, more complex words

By four and a half years, sounds typically used are:  

  • sh, ch, j (in addition to other sounds listed above)

Some four-and-a-half years olds might have difficulties with:

  • l, r, th
  • Consonant clusters: fl, fr, gr, gl, str, spl

By five years, sounds typically used are:

  • Now using ‘l’ (in additional to other sounds listed above)

Some five year olds might have difficulties with:

  • r, th
  • Consonant clusters involving r or l e.g. fl, gr

By six years sounds typically used are:

  • Using all sounds except ‘th’
  • Using 3-consonant clusters e.g. spr, str, spl

Some six year olds may have difficulties with:

  • th 

By seven years, most children are able to use all sounds except for reginal accent variations e.g. “fink” for think.

 

Concerns about speech

The following areas often worry parents, carers and teachers. But they’re all perfectly normal and don’t need treatment by a Speech and Language Therapist.

  • Lisping in children under seven, when a “th” sound replaces the letter “s”, usually disappears as children get older – lost teeth or braces might also cause lisping; this is perfectly normal
  • Saying “w” instead of “r” can persist up until the age of seven, although most children will have acquired the “r” sound by the age of five
  • Leaving out the “t” in the middle and at the end of words isn’t a problem unless your child is showing other speech problems – leaving out “t” is often caused by an accent, rather than a problem with talking
  • Replacing “th” with “f” (in words such as “thing”) and “th” with “v” (in words such as “that”) is usually caused by accent, rather than speech difficulties

If you notice any of these in your child after the age of seven, and they seem to be causing difficulties, consider contacting your GP or our HealthHub for advice.

The Department of Education has created a resource called Hungry Little Minds to help support parents and carers with tips to encourage speech, language and development in age appropriate stages.