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Articulation is the process of making speech sounds by moving the tongue, lips, jaw, and soft palate. Children learn speech by imitating the sounds they hear as you talk about what you are doing during the day, sing songs, and read books to them.
Children begin developing speech as an infant. By 6 months of age, babies coo and play with their voices, making sounds like "oo,” “da,” “ma,” and “goo." As babies grow, they begin to babble, making more consonants like "b" and "k" with different vowel sounds.
Although children begin to develop speech as infants, they do not learn to make all speech sounds at one time. Your child will continue to imitate sounds and word shapes. These imitations will turn into natural, unplanned speech.
Every sound has a different, but predictable, range of ages for when the child should make the sound correctly.
Articulation errors are a normal part of speech development. Most children will make mistakes as they learn to say new words. Not all sound replacements and omissions are considered speech errors. Instead, they may be related to a dialect or accent.
The chart below gives age ranges for when children learn to make certain speech sounds.
These are general guidelines for speech sound development. Talk with a speech language pathologist or other health care provider if you have concerns about your child’s speech.
An articulation delay or disorder happens when errors continue past a certain age. These errors can occur at the beginning, middle, or end of a word. The 3 most common articulation errors are:
For many children, the causes of speech sound disorders are not known. Your child may not learn how to make the sounds correctly or may not learn the rules of speech on their own. Physical problems can also affect articulation. These physical problems include:
If you have concerns about your child’s speech, talk to your doctor. It is important to identify and treat any physical conditions that may be contributing to articulation delays.
A speech language pathologist can help assess whether your child has an articulation disorder and develop a speech therapy plan.
Reviewed: August 2022