Your child should begin learning to say the /s/ sound around the age of three. However, achieving fluency in this sound might take up until the age of eight. The /s/ sound is often associated with the /z/ sound because both articulations require the same mouth position.
How it’s elicited
Unlike /z/, /s/ is an unvoiced sound. This means that when you say it, only air passes through your mouth.
To make the /s/ sound, start by parting your lips and pulling them back towards the corners of your mouth. The front top and bottom teeth should be lightly touching. Point the tip of your tongue down so that it is also lightly touching behind the bottom front
The most difficult part of making the /s/ sound is the positioning of the back of the tongue. The sides of your tongue should be touching the roof of your mouth, but the middle of tongue should not. There should be a passage down the middle of the tongue that air can travel over and escape the mouth, making the “ssss” sound that you hear.
TIP: The /s/ sound, when made correctly, can be easily held out. Sometimes it’s easier for your child to grow comfortable with the mouth position when he makes it for a longer period of time. Encourage your child to hold the /s/ sound out when first learning it.
How To Practice It
Once your child is ready to begin mastering the /s/ sound, remember that repetition is important. First, your child should practice /s/ sound by itself until you feel like she is ready to move on to bigger challenges.
Syllables should be the next step in achieving fluency. Practice several of these with your child—“sa,” “soo,” “suh.” If those are starting to see easy for your child, switch to syllables that end with the /s/ sound—“us,” “sass,” “os.”
The next step is to practice words and sentences with /s/ or multiple /s/ sounds. Try this one—“The silly snake says sassy things.”
Make sure that you make clear articulation the most important thing during practice. If you child stumbles over a /s/ sound while saying a sentence or word, have them repeat that sound correctly before moving on to the next word.
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.