Parents often have questions about their toddlers and preschoolers’ speech clarity. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about articulation.

  1. How clear should my child’s speech be at a certain age?

In general, parents should be able to understand around 50% of their child’s speech by the age of two, 80% by the age of three, and almost 100% by the age of five.


  1. My three-year-old child cannot say words like “shoe”, and “red” accurately yet. Should I worry?

Speech sounds develop at different times. Younger children replace later-developing sounds with the ones they have already mastered, e.g. ‘shoe’ pronounced as “doo”, and ‘red’ pronounced as “wed”. These substitutions are age-appropriate errors for three-year-olds.

Earlier developing sounds are /b/, /p/, /d/, /t/, /g/, /k/, /m/, /n/, /h/, /w/ and /f/. These should be mastered by three years old.

Later developing sounds include /y/, /v/, /s/, /sh/, /z/, /ch/, /j/, /th/, /z/, /l/, /r/ and consonant blends, e.g. /br/, /fl/, and /sl/. They are usually mastered between four to eight years old.


  1. What causes articulation problems?

There can be many  reasons why a child is late to develop speech sounds. They include hearing difficulties, inability to tell different sounds apart (discrimination) , structural problems with the mouth, lips, teeth or tongue, difficulties with planning movement of oral muscles, and oral muscle weakness.


  1. Is my child’s tongue-tie affecting his speech? Should he have the tongue tie clipped?

A tongue-tie is where the strip of skin (lingual frenulum) connecting the tongue to the bottom of the mouth is shorter than usual. Depending on the severity, a tongue-tie may reduce tongue mobility and affect breastfeeding and swallowing in infants. Research shows that clipping the tongue-tie can improve breastfeeding. However, tongue-tie does not necessarily affect speech, and, in most cases, is not the cause of a child’s speech problem . In cases where  surgery is recommended, the child will also need to receive speech therapy to develop new muscle movements and work on speech-sound production after the surgery. If you have concerns, consult a Speech Therapist and/or paediatrician for recommendations.


  1. My child cannot say some words clearly. What can I do to help?

Here are some tips:

  • Focus on your child’s message instead of the misarticulated word. It is very discouraging if a child is told that he has said a word ‘wrong’ every time he tries to communicate.
  • Model the correct way to say the word. This way, your child can hear and see how it is produced.
  • Slow down your own speech rate. Model speaking at a rate that ensures clarity. Your child will be likely to slow down his speech rate and make it easier for others to understand him.
  • Avoid overcorrection, showing frustration or making fun of your child.


If you have any concerns about your child’s speech development, please feel free to discuss with our Speech and Language Therapists.