Your child should begin learning the /th/ sound between the ages of four and half and eight. This can be a difficult sound for your child to learn to incorporate into his or her speech because it can be both voiced and unvoiced. This means that sometimes the vocal chords are used to make the /th/ sound and other times only air passes through the mouth when it is articulated.
However, the actual learning process and mouth positioning of this sound can be very easy.
How It’s Elicited
The reason this sound is so easy to teach is because it’s so visual. You can show your child exactly where their tongue, teeth and lips need to be. Place the tip of the tongue between the top and bottom front teeth. The teeth should be gently touching the tongue just behind the tip so that it is slightly protruding. The lips should be pulled back, away from the teeth.
Start by making the unvoiced /th/ sound, letting only air escape between the small spaces around the tongue that the teeth do not block.
If made properly, the /th/ sound is easily held out for several seconds. Encourage your child to hold the sound out when he is first learning so as to grow accustomed to the mouth position.
Once your child has mastered the /th/ mouth position, begin incorporating the voice aspect of this sound.
How To Practice
Once your child is stimulable—meaning he or she is able to directly imitate the /th/ sound when you make it—it’s time to push their skill and confidence level. Start by incorporating the /th/ sound into syllables.
Try starting syllables that begin with the /th/ sound (“the, thee, tha”). When your child is comfortable making these basic syllabic sounds, try moving up to some more advanced drills—ones that end with the /th/ sound, rather than begin with it. “ith,” “ath” and “uth” could be good practice syllables.
Next start testing your child’s ability to pronounce entire words that incorporate the /th/ sound—“that,” “this,” “there.” Try finding a variety of words for your child to practice, not just ones that start with the /th/ sound.
Sentences including the /th/ should be the next step in achieving fluency with the /th/ sound. Ask your child to repeat this sentence—“The truth is on the Earth.” Try writing a few of your own sentences to practice with your child.
It’s important thing to remember during practice that repetition and the correct articulation are most important in mastering this sound. If you notice your child stumbling over the /th/ sounds once he begins incorporating it into words and sentences, make sure you step in and have him repeat the word correct before moving on to the next one. It’s okay to encourage your child to go slow at first when saying words or sentences.
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.