As toddlers are developing their speech and language skills, there are a number of articulation errors that are typical. A common articulation error that a 2-year old may make is substituting the /t/ sound for /k/. For example, the child may say “tat” for “cat,” “tar” for “car” or “bite” for “bike.” By the age of 3, however, accurate production of the /k/ sound should be emerging in a typically developing child.
The /k/ sound is called a “velar consonant,” meaning it is produced in the back of the mouth, with the back of the tongue elevating to touch the velum (soft palate). When a child replaces this sound with a /t/, she is “fronting” the sound, which means she is instead lifting the front of her tongue (the tip) to the ridge behind her teeth.
If your child is unable to imitate the /k/ sound, try these tricks at home:
- Use a mirror. Having the visual support of actually seeing what’s going on in the mouth will help your child. Explain to your child you will be practicing the “/k/ sound” which is made “in the back of your mouth.”
- Keep your child’s mouth open, and have her practice a coughing sound. She will feel the back of her tongue naturally elevate. You may need to provide tactile support by gently holding her lower jaw as a reminder to keep her mouth open. Provide positive verbal feedback like, “Great! I heard that sound in the back of your mouth.”
- Use a popsicle stick to gently hold the front of your child’s tongue down while she tries the /k/ sound in isolation. Prompt her by saying, “Good job! I saw your tongue go up in the back.” Try it again without the stick.
- 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 /k/ 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 /k/ sound (e.g. bike, cat, car) on the underside of the table, and practice the /k/ sound by itself every time the flashlight finds a new picture.
- Once your child is able to imitate /k/ in isolation, practice in syllables (e.g. “key, “coo,” “kah”) and then the initial position of words (e.g. “can,” “cow,” “cat,” “carrot”). The /k/ sound may need to be separated from the rest of the word at first (e.g. “k – ey”) to maintain an accurate /k/ sound, however with continued practice, your child should be able to blend the sounds together.
With a little practice, your child should be producing the /k/ sound in no time!
For ideas on eliciting the /m/ sound in your child’s speech, click here. If you have concerns regarding your child’s speech production, please consult a licensed speech-language pathologist to complete a full evaluation of skills.