By Hallie Bulkin, MA CCC-SLP, COM
Children develop speech and language at different rates. It is important to note that some children have very clear speech at a young age and produce speech sounds earlier than suggested, while others are a bit slower in developing their speech sounds. The following age ranges presented here are a general range of when your child should be able to produce the various speech sounds in the English language.
By 2 years of age children will use the following sounds in words: /p/, /b/, /m/, /n/, /d/, /h/. Because 2-year-olds sounds are so limited, we generally only understand about 50% of what they say. It is noted that at this age, children sometimes replace a sound they don’t have yet with a similar sound, they may add sounds to words and at times they may completely eliminate sounds from words. Many of these “processes” are developmentally appropriate at the age of 2 but we do expect them to fade, as they gain more of their speech sounds, by 3 and 4 years of age.
By 3 years of age a child will also use the following sounds in words: /f/, /g/, /k/, /t/, /w/. As the number of sounds used in speech increases, we also start to understand their speech more. While speech may be unclear to adults who don’t know the child well, those who do know the child (e.g., parents, teachers, etc) generally understand a 3-year-old’s speech 75% of the time.
By 4 years of age, a child will add in the /kw/ sound (as in “quick”) and as the child masters more of their sounds they typically are understood 100% of the time, despite not having developed all of their speech sounds yet!
By 5 years of age your child will use sounds like ‘ch’, ‘j’, /l/, /s/, ‘sh’, /y/, /bl/ in words and by 6 years of age they will add in /r/, /v/, /br/, /dr/, /fl/, /gl/, /gr/, /kl/, /kr/, /pl/, /st/, /tr/. At this point, speech should be clear and easy to understand. The /r/ and ‘th’ sounds may still not be perfect but by 7 years of age, we do expect those later developing sounds, /r/ and ‘th’ to be mastered and used correctly in your child’s everyday speech. By age 7 there should not be any noticeable errors in your child’s speech.
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If you feel your child’s speech sounds are not developing as suggested here, it can help to have a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist complete an articulation assessment with your child. If you have any questions you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301.881.1394.