Around the age of two, your child should begin to incorporate the /h/ sound into her speech.
However, /h/ can be one of the trickier sounds to teach or learn because it is a dependable sound—the position of the mouth while eliciting the /h/ sound depends on what sound will follow. For instance, the way ours mouths look when we begin the pronunciation of the word “hoot” is much different that how we shape it when saying “hen.” This is why it’s best to first develop your child’s articulation of the sound by itself before encouraging it be used in syllables or words.
How it is elicited?
The /h/ sound will likely be one of the first sounds your child will begin to develop that is not produced by external parts of the mouth like the lips. It is a “fricative” speech sound, meaning the sound is created by a point of friction somewhere along the breath stream. In the case of the /h/ sound, this friction occurs when air passes through the mouth. This is also a voiceless sound, meaning your child should not be using her vocals chords at all during its articulation.
TIP: If the sound passing through your child’s mouth is too harsh in tone and almost resembles a choking noise, this means that your child’s breath is actually bouncing off of the soft palette in her mouth. Try to encourage her to use less force during articulation.
While much of the position of the mouth during the articulation of the /h/ sound depends on the sound that will follow it, there is one consistency. The teeth and lips should always remain parted during the articulation of the /h/ sound. This way the air is able to pass through the mouth, therefore producing the sound that we commonly hear as “h.”
How is it taught?
In most cases, imitation is considered the most effective when teaching children to articulate certain sounds. However, because the /h/ sound is produced inside the mouth and can be so fickle when paired with other sounds, your child might be easily confused
as to how exactly this sound is made.
A fun trick to helping your child visualize this sound can be done by holding a mirror under her mouth. When articulated correctly, the condensation from your child’s breath will catch on the mirror creating a “fog” on its surface. You might need to demonstrate
this to your child first.
Once she is comfortable and confident with the articulation of the sole /h/ sound, begin incorporating it into the pronunciation of sounds and syllable that begin with “h.” Make sure you are stressing your child’s need to anticipate the next sound in order to produce the most natural articulation possible.
If you are concerned with your child’s speech or language development, please contact Chicago Speech Therapy by clicking on the “Contact Karen” button on the upper right section of this page. Your online inquiry should be responded to within 30 minutes.
Karen George is a Chicago speech-language pathologist. Karen is a founding member and the current leader of Chicago Speech Therapists Connect, a group of Chicago-area speech-language pathologists. As of Jan 2012, the Chicago Speech Therapists group contained over 400 members. The private pediatric speech therapy practice Karen founded, Chicago Speech Therapy, LLC, provides in-home pediatric speech therapy in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Karen and her team of Chicago speech therapists have a reputation for ultra-effective speech therapy and work with a variety of speech disorders. Karen is the author of several books such as A Parent’s Guide to Speech and Language Milestones, A Parent’s Guide to Articulation, A Parent’s Guide to Speech Delay, A Parent’s Guide to Stuttering Therapy, and A Parent’s Guide to Pediatric Feeding Therapy. She is often asked to speak and has addressed audiences at Children’s Memorial and Northwestern University. Karen is highly referred by many Chicago-area Pediatricians and elite schools.