Speech Sound Milestones

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Speech Sound Milestones


This article explores the development of speech sounds in English speakers. Children take many years to understand and use all the speech sounds of the English language. The vowels, a,e,i,o and u are usually acquired first as these sounds are easiest to produce as they require the least amount of motor coordination. However, vowels are rarely used in isolation and so they will be combined with a handful of initial consonants learned. Milestones in speech development therefore tends to focus on the mastery of consonant sounds and later consonant blends such ch and tr as in chin and train.

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Cooing and Babbling

From birth babies begin experimenting with producing sounds. They are not yet trying to form words or communicate meaning. Instead cooing and babbling is about the child discovering how to make vocal sounds. Cooing is the production of vowel sounds such as oo and ah and are the first to appear. From about 3 to 4 months this becomes babbling as the baby begins experimenting with their first consonant sounds. This continues so that by about a year most children will have begun to make recognisable protowords such as da-da or mum-mum. Babbling is really important for the development of speech and language but this process can be held back by the overuse of baby soothers (dummies/comforters/pacifiers).

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Consonant Milestones

Consonant sounds are formed when the outgoing breath sound is restricted in a particular way inside the oral cavity. For example the b consonant sound is created by bringing the lips together and then apart. Some consonants are more tricky to create and these usually take longer to master. Equally consonant digraphs (blends) such sh, as in ship, require more time to acquire. The following table shows approximate age of acquisition of the consonants and common consonant digraphs.


Speech Sounds


b d g m n w


p t k


s f sh z


j ch sp


tr st sl

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You may also find the following pages useful:

Attention Milestones

Expressive Language Milestones

Reeptive Language Milestones

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All children develop at different rates and so reaching milestones slower or faster than peers does not necessarily mean that there is a concern.

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