Your child should begin learning to say the /t/ sound between the ages of two and six. The /t/ sound is often associated with the /d/ sound because both articulations require the same mouth position.
How it’s elicited
/t/ is an unvoiced sound. This means that when you say it, only air passes through your mouth.
This is a “stop consonant” meaning there are two parts to the articulation of this sound. The first is stopping the airflow. The second is the release of it. Obviously, the part of articulation during which you or your child’s lips are closed is the stoppage of air. Say the word “wrote” to yourself. Notice how your mouth shuts off at the beginning of the /t/ sound and then opens to release that air and produce the “teh” sound.
The tongue plays a big role in producing the /t/ sound. During articulation, it blocks the airflow by raising the tip to touch the roof of your mouth just behind the front teeth. Pull the tongue down and part your teeth to let the airflow escape and produce the /t/ sound.
Tips for Practicing
Because the tongue is such an important part of pronunciation when learning the /t/ sound, the first question you should ask is whether or not the muscles in your child’s tongue have developed to the point that it is strong enough to lift to the roof of the mouth and block airflow.
A good way to test this, even before trying to teach the /d/ sound, is to ask your child to open his or her mouth and move their tongue up, down and then side to side. If he is able to do this without struggle, he’s ready to start moving forward in his language development.
However, if this seems like a challenge, you should encourage your child to strength the tongue muscles by repeatedly lifting their tongue from the bottom of the mouth to the top.
Tip: Since tongue exercises might not seem like the most exciting thing to your child, make it more fun by dabbing something tasty like peanut butter on the roof of her mouth, just behind the teeth where the tongue would rest while saying the /t/ sound.
Once your child is ready to begin mastering the /t/ sound, remember that repetition is important. First, your child should practice /t/ 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—“ta,” “too,” tuh.” If those are starting to see easy for your child, switch to syllables that end with the /d/ sound—“at,” “it,” “ut.”
The next step is to practice words and sentences with /t/ or multiple /t/ sounds. Make sure that you make clear articulation the most important thing during practice. If you child stumbles over a /t/ 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.