The Dish on Articulation

Its almost impossible NOT to compare your child to others. Many moms ask something like, “There is a one-year old who speaks so clearly, I can understand everything, but no one knows what my 18-month old is saying.”

The fact is that articulation, or the ability to pronounce speech sounds, is a very complex motor skill.

It is much different than the muscles involved in walking and throwing a ball. Speech movements (using the lips, tongue, and teeth) are smaller and less visible to your kiddo, who is learning how to say it all.

Some of the early speech sounds your child makes are the ones you can see (sounds such as /b/, /m/ and /w/), but many speech sounds you cannot, because they are all INSIDE of your mouth, of course. Words they master are ones like mama, more, mine, and ball.

As your child passes the one-year mark, they should begin to use a larger variety of consonants during communication and play. The words they say may be difficult to understand, but know that this is normal.

By 24 months, you should be able to understand at least 50% of what your child is saying and by 36 months, about 75%.

Remember that when it comes to what is considered “normal,” there is a large grey area. So take this information lightly:

  • Sounds mastered by 2 years:  p, b, m, w, t, d, n, h
  • Sounds mastered by 3 years:  k, g
  • Sounds mastered by 4 years:  f, v, y, l
  • Sounds mastered by 5-6 years:  s, z, j, r, sh, ch, th

If your child does substitute sounds that make articulation less clear, just model the correct way. For example: Mama, div me dooce, you should say “Ok, Mama will give you juice.”

Remember that you are your child’s best language model. So keep just keep talking!


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