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Speech Sounds for Three Year Olds

Many parents become concerned when their child’s speech is not clear at two years. While your child may be saying a lot of words and starting to speak in longer sentences at two, they are not always understood by you (their parents) and others around them.

One of the reasons for this is that the first group of sounds that a child produces are not expected, in terms of a child progressing within developmental norms, until your child is three years of age, and even then it is an expectation of 75% accuracy. By the age of three, your child should be able to say the following sounds:- P, B, T, D, K, G, M, N, NG (as in sing), H, Y, ZH (as in measure)

Many of these sounds fall into the same group. For example the P, B, T, D, K, G and H sounds are all known as stops. This basically means they are short sounds.

The P and B sounds are produced with the lips initially together and then air escapes when the lips are opened producing the sound. Both sounds involve the same action except the P sound is “quiet” and the B sound is “loud”. By this I mean if you hold your hand up to your throat you will feel a vibration in your throat for B but not for P.

The T and D sounds are produced slightly further back in the mouth. Rather than using the lips, the tongue is placed behind the top teeth to produce the sounds. Both sounds involve the same action except that T is “quiet” and D is “loud”.

The K and G sounds are produced at the back of the mouth. The tip of the tongue needs to move back in the mouth. Both sounds involve the same action except that the K is “quiet” and the G is “loud”. The K and G sounds can quite often be difficult for children and are often replaced with the T and D sounds. If they are not achieved by 4 it is recommended that you see a Speech Pathologist.

The H sound involves placing the tongue behind the bottom teeth, opening the mouth and breathing out. This sound is a quiet sound. Some children will have the error with this sound that it is omitted at the start of words.

The M, N and NG are all known as nasal sounds. This is because when your child says these sound, the majority of air will pass through the nose rather than the mouth.

The M sound is made by keeping the lips together and making the sound. The air will escape from the nose to make the sound. It is a long and “loud” sound.

The N sound is made by holding the tongue behind the top teeth and not moving it. This allows for more air to move through the nose. It is a long and “loud” sound.

The NG sound is made by moving the tongue to the back of the mouth and holding it there so that most of the air escapes through the nose. It is a long and “loud” sound.

The ZH sound is made by closing your teeth together and slightly pursing your lips. It is a long and “loud” sound. Interestingly enough, the paired quiet sound, which is SH is not expected until 4 years of age. Finally the Y sound is made is by slightly opening the lips and teeth and moving the tip of the tongue behind the bottom teeth. It is a short and “loud” sound.

By the age of 3 years 6 months, the F sound is expected. This sound is produced by covering the bottom lip with the top teeth. It is a long and “quiet” sound. Again, it is interesting that the V sound, which is the same sound only loud, is not expected until 6 years of age.

In terms of speech output, from three to four years of age, your child should be speaking in longer sentences of more than three words. They should be understood by “strangers” at least 75% of the time and by parents and close family 95-100% of the time.

Well that’s all the sounds for 3 year olds. I will be adding some VLOGS with more information on how to achieve the sounds and in a few months will be releasing some programs that target these sounds.

Over the next few weeks, I will go through sounds for children aged 4 to 8 years. Please feel free to ask any questions about achieving sounds and let me know how you are going if you are practising with your own children. You can also go to my Facebook Page to ask questions and get information about upcoming products, free resources and different areas of Speech Pathology.

To contact me visit my website at or email me at



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