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Speech Sounds By Age: What Sounds Should My Child Be Able to Pronounce?


Do you have a child whose speech is unclear? Is it hard for you to understand what they’re saying? To some degree, this is normal for very young children (infants and toddlers, specifically), but in other instances it can be a cause for concern and warrant speech therapy. In this blog post, we present the current guidelines for speech sound development so that you can monitor your child’s skills at home.

Please note: These guidelines are based on monolingual, English-speaking children. If your child who speaks more than one language or whose primary language is not English, these guidelines may not apply to your family.

Speech Sound Development  By Age

In brief, children should be able to pronounce a selection of new sounds by each age milestone:

2- and 3-year-olds should be able to pronounce consonants: P, B, M, D, N, H, T, K, G, W, NG, F, Y

4-year-olds are expected to have many more consonants added to their vocabulary: P, B, M, D, N, H, T, K, G, W, NG, F, Y, L, J, CH, S, V, SH, Z

5-year olds should be able to speak: R, ZH (e.g. the second “g” in garage), voiced TH (e.g. these)

6-year-olds have one additional sound to master: voiceless TH (as in "thumb")

Speech Sound Development by Age


We explain all of these in depth below!


Consonant Articulation for 2- and 3-Year-Olds

For children between ages two and three, speech is commonly unclear as they are still learning how to communicate like an adult. Typically, we expect a two-year-old’s speech to be understood approximately 50% of the time and a three-year-old’s speech to be understood between 50-75% of the time.

In addition to how well your child should be understood, it’s important to consider what they should be able to say.

On average, children between ages two and three are able to correctly pronounce 13 different consonant sounds.

Sounds that a two-year-old should be able to pronounce:

P, B, M, D, N, H, T, K, G, W, NG, F, Y

Consonant sounds not listed above may be pronounced incorrectly.

For example, a child in this age group may say “tat” for cat, mispronouncing the C/K sound, but correctly pronouncing the T sound.


Consonants and Sound Development in 4-Year-Olds

Like two- and three-year-olds, four-year-olds may still have speech that is unclear or mispronounced. However, we typically expect a four-year-old child’s speech to be understood almost all the time. It’s important to consider not just how well you understand your child but also how well less familiar listeners (friends, distant relatives) understand them. As parents, we often understand what our children are saying—even when others may not—because we are accustomed to the patterns they’ve developed.

Aside from your child’s overall speech clarity, you need to think about what sounds they should be able to say at this age. In addition to the sounds described in the two- and three-year-old range above, a four-year-old child is typically able to pronounce an additional seven consonant sounds.

Sounds that a four-year-old should be able to pronounce:

P, B, M, D, N, H, T, K, G, W, NG, F, Y, L, J, CH, S, V, SH, Z

Even though a four-year-old should be able to say a total of 20 different consonant sounds correctly and be understood almost all  the time, mispronunciations are still possible. For example, a four-year-old child may say “wabbit” for rabbit, which would be appropriate for their age.

Speech Development in 5- and 6-Year-Olds

At age five, children should be understood 100% of the time. Additionally, mispronunciations become less and less common. When children are five, they are expected to say an additional three consonant sounds correctly. These sounds are: R, ZH (e.g. the second “g” in garage), voiced TH (e.g. these).

At age six, children have one sound left to master, which is the voiceless TH (e.g., thumb).


What Do I Do if My Child's Speech Development is Delayed?

If your child’s speech sound development does not align with the aforementioned guidelines,  a speech evaluation should be completed by a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP). Through the evaluation, the SLP will be able to determine whether or not your child’s speech is developing appropriately and if speech therapy is warranted. Additionally, the SLP can help to determine what underlying cause may be impacting your child’s speech and offer suggestions for home practice.

McLeod, S. & Crowe, K. (2018). Children’s consonant acquisition in 27 languages: A cross-linguistic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. doi:10.1044/2018_AJSLP-17-0100

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash


Courtney Caruso, M.S., CCC-SLP

Courtney Caruso, M.S., CCC-SLP is a bilingual (English/Spanish) speech-language pathologist and the owner and founder of Liberty Speech Associates LLC, a speech therapy practice located in Hackettstown, NJ. She is also the co-author of the book From Meals to Milestones: 35 Delicious Dishes to Encourage Child Development. For more information about Courtney, visit her website at