As an educator, I have encountered many young students that have had trouble with their speech. Plus, confession time, I myself saw a speech pathologist up until fifth grade. My family used to joke that it sounded like I was speaking Chinese until I was about ten years old.
A toddler mispronouncing sounds is usually seen as cute. A kid getting ready to head into junior high - not so much.
Here are some proven strategies that you can start incorporating right now into your toddler’s daily routine, to ensure they have a fighting start when it comes to pronunciation and articulation.
Focus on Phonics and Decoding
Phonics is associating sounds with letters. Decoding means the child can start breaking down words once they have the sounds and letters down pat. Use a systematic phonics and decoding program to ensure your toddler knows which sounds go with which letters. It will also be teaching them to read at the same time.
Focus on Individual and Groups of Letters
If your toddler is mispronouncing a word, sometimes they just have to slow down and take it a letter or two at a time. Break down the word with them and chop it up into sounds. Once they slow down on separating sounds, they will master the whole word better.
Correct Them When Possible
The last thing a toddler will want to hear is a parent constantly correcting their speech. Choose your battles wisely. Don’t correct them after every word they are mispronouncing, but do set them on the right track when they are ready to listen.
Don’t Freak Out
Before you start to worry when your toddler pronounces a few sounds consistently wrong here and there, keep in mind that there are difficult sounds in the English language that young children struggle with originally. If your toddler is having trouble with r, wh, ng, th, and sh, it is to be somewhat expected. Practice makes perfect though! Just correct them in a non-scolding manner and they will get better.
If you truly feel they are having great difficulty in pronouncing sounds more than other toddlers, don’t wait until they are entering school. Have them see a qualified speech pathologist. It could mean they are having auditory problems and can’t hear the difference between the sounds that well at the moment.