You’ve probably had this experience before: you’re at a playgroup or birthday party with your child, and you’re trying to converse with the other little ones there. But the kid’s speech is difficult to understand, and you have to call his parent over to interpret. Or maybe you have to guess a few times before you can figure out what your own child is saying. It’s perfectly normal for a young child to pronounce “room” as “woom” and “sun” as “thun.” Some children master most or all sounds by five years of age, while others master articulation by the age of eight. If you believe your child might be struggling with articulation, you can request an evaluation by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). If the SLP diagnoses your child with a speech disorder or delay, speech therapy can help improve articulation. You can also use some simple, fun activities at home to encourage proper articulation.

Modeling Correct Speech

One effective method of improving articulation in your child is to model correct speech. Avoid correcting your child when he makes a mistake. Instead, repeat the words correctly. For example, your child might say, “Toy in my woom.” You can say, “Yes, Billy, your toy is in your room. Will you please go to your room to get your toy so we can play?” Avoid speaking too quickly, but use a natural rhythm.

Maintaining a regular flow of conversation around your child helps him learn speech and language. For example, describe how you are making a salad or putting on your child’s shoes. It is also beneficial to set aside certain blocks of time to encourage vocalization. For example, every evening at dinner, make a habit of having each person discuss what they liked best and least about their day.

Speech Buddies

In addition to modeling correct speech, consider using Speech Buddies. These tools provide a target within the mouth so that your child can feel for the right way to pronounce a sound. Just a few minutes of work with Speech Buddies per day can help your child learn correct tongue placement for the sounds that he struggles with.

I Spy

Play I Spy with your child. Challenge your child to name objects around the room that contain the sounds that he’s working on. For example, if he’s working on the “p” sound, challenge him to find the apple or the pastry. If your child loses interest in this quickly, play a game of pretend in which you’re both private investigators hunting for certain objects around the room.

Treasure Hunt

Treasure hunts are pretty similar to I Spy. Hide objects around your child’s room that will prompt him to repeat target sounds. Then, give him clues as to the item’s whereabouts. This is also a great opportunity to work on prepositions. Instruct your child to ask you for hints, like “Is it in my toy box? Is it on the shelf? Is it under the bed?”

Flashcard Road

Get a large poster board and draw a curvy road on it made up of two parallel lines. Segment the road into blocks and write a word on each block that contains a target sound. Play cars with your child. Each person has to say the target word as he drives the car over it.

Mother May I

Create your own version of Mother May I. Instruct your child to take a step forward every time he hears a target sound that you speak. For example, tell your child to take one step forward every time he hears you say a word with the “r” sound. As your child masters this game, make it a little harder. Tell him to take one giant step forward when he hears the “r” at the beginning of the word, and one small step forward when he hears the “r” at the middle or end of the word.

Speech Buddies offers tools for parents and speech therapists to help children overcome speech disorders. Consider using Speech Buddies to make articulation practice fun and engaging for your child.