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Common Speech Errors Children Make

Updated: Jun 4


two toddlers playing
Children make common speech sound errors when they are learning to talk .

Introduction to Child Speech Development


Do you ever smile when your child says "wunch" instead of "lunch" or "tat" instead of "cat"? These cute speech mix-ups are more than just endearing; they're an essential part of learning to talk. In fact, these are common speech sound error patterns, known as phonological processes, that young children make as they refine their speech skills.


But when will these errors go away? In this post, we'll explore typical speech sound errors, provide examples, and explain when they usually disappear. Understanding these phonological processes will help you better support your child's journey and determine when it might be time to seek additional help.


Common Speech Errors/Phonological Processes


Deaffrication: Simplifying Complex Sounds

  • Example: Saying “ship” for "chip"

  • Typical Until: 4 Years

The "ch" and "j" sounds are actually made up of two sounds. When you combine "t" and "sh", it makes the "ch" sound. When you combine the "d" and "zh" sound it makes "j". When saying these sounds, your mouth builds up the pressure and then releases the air. Deaffrication occurs when the air build up doesn't happen (so the "t" or "d" part is omitted) and just the air release occurs as a "sh" or "zh" sound. Most kids outgrow this phonological process by age 4.


Devoicing: Turning Voiced Sounds into Unvoiced Sounds

  • Example: Saying “pull” for "bull"

  • Typical Until: 3 Years


Devoicing is a phonological process where a sound that is normally voiced (produced with vibration of the vocal cords) is pronounced without that vocal cord vibration, making it unvoiced.


When devoicing occurs, voiced sounds are pronounced more like their unvoiced counterparts e.g. /b/ becomes /p/ ("pull" for "bull"). Each voiced sound has an unvoiced counterpart.


Final Consonant Deletion: Skipping the Last Sound

  • Example: Saying “Mo” instead of “More”

  • Typical Until: 3 years


Many children will simply words by leaving off (or deleting) the last sound. That means saying "no" for "nose", leaving off the final "s" sound, or "ha" for "hat" deleting the final /t/ sound.


Final consonant deletion is a typical speech sound error pattern (phonological process) and is not of concern as long as it disappears by 3 years.


Fricative Replacement: Substituting Difficult Sounds

  • Example: Saying "fought" instead of "thought"

Fricative replacement is a phonological process where a child replaces a fricative sound with another sound that is typically easier for them to produce. Examples of fricatives include /f/, /s/, /θ/ (as in "thick"), and /ð/ (as in "this"). Common types of replacements include:


  • Replacing /θ/ (th) with /f/: For instance, saying "fink" instead of "think".

  • Replacing /θ/ (th) with /s/: For example, saying "sink" instead of "think".

  • Replacing /ð/ (th) with /f/: Such as saying "fanks" instead of "thanks".


Fronting: Moving Sounds Forward

  • Example: “Tar” instead of “Car”

  • Typical Until: 3 ½ Years


Fronting happens when your child makes speech sounds that are supposed to be made in the back of their mouth at the front of their mouth.The typical speech sounds substitutions are k->t and g->d. A child may say ‘tar’ for ‘car’ , 'tup' for 'cup' or ‘doh’ instead of ‘go’. This phonological process should disappear by the time a child turns three and a half.


Note: Backing is where sounds produced at the front of the mouth are produced at the back e.g. d -> g, t -> k. This is an atypical phonological process.


Gliding: Swapping 'L' and 'R' for 'W' and 'Y'

  • Example: Saying “Yight” for Light

  • Typical Until: 6 Years


Gliding is what’s happening if your child uses an “L” or “R” sound instead of a “W” or “Y”. They might say “wunch” instead of lunch or “yight” instead of light. This phonological process is very common. We’d typically expect it to go away by the time a child is age five.


Consonant Cluster Reduction: Simplifying Sound Combinations

(S Clusters, L Clusters, R Clusters):

  • Example: Saying “Tar” instead of “Star”

  • Typical Until: 5 Years (S Clusters), 4 Years (Other Clusters)


Some words have two consonants next to each other, e.g. the way the s and t are in "star". We call the "st" a consonant cluster. Children will often pick one sound to say and leave out the other one. They might say "sar" instead of "star" or "tar" instead of "star".


Consonant cluster reduction is a very typical speech sound error pattern until kids are about 4 years old (clusters without S) and 5 years old (clusters with S).


Stopping: Replacing Long Airflow Sounds

  • Example: Saying “Pish” for Fish

  • Typical Until: 3 - 3 ½ Years


Certain speech sounds (e.g. /f, /v/, /s/, /sh/) require a long airflow. If a child has the phonological process of 'stopping', they are stopping the long airflow and saying a different sound instead. For example, they may say ‘pish’ instead of ‘fish’, because the /p/ sound doesn’t have a long airflow but the /f/ sound does.

menu in the minimal pairs arcade app for speech therapy
Phonological processes menu in Minimal Pairs Arcade with the Stopping category selected

There are many different possible speech sound substitutions that a child may make if they are stopping. You can see some of the more common ones in this image.


Stopping usually disappears by the time a child is between three and three and a half years old, depending on the airflow sound we’re talking about.





Voicing: Turning Unvoiced Sounds into Voiced Sounds

  • Example: "bat" instead of "pat"

  • Typical Until: 3 Years


Voicing is a phonological process where a sound that is normally unvoiced (produced without vibration of the vocal cords) is pronounced with vocal cord vibration, making it voiced.


When voicing occurs, unvocied sounds are pronounced more like their voiced counterparts e.g. /p/ becomes /b/ (as in "bat"), /t/ becomes /d/ (as in "dot").


Each of the phonological processes listed above be addressed in the Minimal Pairs Arcade app which adopts the minimal pairs therapy approach.


Please note that this therapy approach works best with children who have one or a few phonological processes in their speech. Children with more severe speech sound difficulties would benefit from a different phonological intervention.


You can try Minimal Pairs Arcade for free by downloading the lite version.


Conclusion and Next Steps

Understanding these phonological processes can help you recognise normal speech development and identify when your child might benefit from professional evaluation. If you're concerned about your child's speech, consider consulting a speech-language pathologist.







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