It is common for young children to make certain sound substitutions as their speech and language skills are developing. One example is substituting /t/ for /k/ (e.g. saying “tar” instead of “car”); another is substituting /d/ for /g/ (e.g. saying “do” instead of “go”). By the age of 3, however, most typically-developing children are able to accurately produce the /k/ and /g/ consonant sounds.
If your child is having difficulty with these sounds, first try some tricks to work on the /k/ sound. Once your child has mastered the /k/ sound, she is ready to work on /g/. /k/ and /g/ are considered “cognates,” meaning that they are produced in the same place in the mouth, with the back of the tongue elevating towards the roof of the mouth. However, /k/ is voiceless, meaning it is produced without using your voice, and /g/ is voiced, meaning it is produced with your voice on.
If your child is unable to produce the /g/ sound, try these tricks at home:
- Use a mirror. This will provide visual support for child to see what’s going on in the mouth.
- Explain to your child that you’re going to practice the /g/ sound and that her tongue needs to “go up in the back.” Then model the sound repeatedly with your mouth open wide enough for your child to see your tongue elevating.
- If your child is able to gargle water, have her practice making the “gargling” sound without water. This will help her feel where her tongue needs to be for the /g/ sound. Provide positive verbal feedback, like “Great! I heard that sound in the back of your mouth.”
- Similar to the /k/ sound, try using a popsicle stick to gently hold the front of your child’s tongue down while she tries the /g/ sound in isolation. Prompt her, “Nice work! I saw your tongue go up in the back.” After multiple trials, try again without the popsicle stick.
- Remind your child to turn her “voice on” for this sound. If she has trouble with this, place her hand on your throat so she can feel the vibration as you model the sound. Then, have her feel her own throat and try to do the same. Praise her by saying, “Good job! I heard your voice this time.”
- Have your child lie on her back on the ground. Her tongue will naturally pull to the back of her mouth in this position. Try the /g/ sound in isolation. Make it fun by lying under a table with the lights off and a flashlight. Stick pictures of objects that have the /g/ sound (e.g. goat, game, gum) on the underside of the table, and practice the /g/ sound by itself every time the flashlight finds a new picture.
- Once your child is able to imitate /g/ in isolation, practice in syllables (e.g. “gah,” “goo,” “gay”) and then the initial position of words (e.g. “gum,” “goat,” “gone”). The /g/ sound may need to be separated from the rest of the word at first (e.g. “g – o”) to maintain an accurate /g/ sound, however with continued practice, your child should be able to blend the sounds together. From here, you can try different positions in words, then phrases/sentences.
If your child continues to have difficulty with the /k/ or /g/ sound at home, please consult a licensed speech-language pathologist to complete a full evaluation of skills.