Isn’t it normal for children not to be able to say some sounds?

Eastside SpeechFAQs

little girl Sydney

Depending on their age, it is normal for children not to be able to say some sounds, as they learn to say different sounds at different ages.

Early speech sounds are made by infants and toddlers using their lips and  the front of their tongue (m, p, b, t, d, n). This is explains why most names for parents and grandparents around the world sound pretty similar!- Papa, Mumu, Boba, Poppy, Teta, Papu etc.  

By around the age of 3, most children learn to say sounds made with the back of their tongues (k & g) as well as “w ,y & f “.   Most familiar adults should easily understand 3 year olds. 

When children are 4 they should be able to say “s, sh, v, j & ch” and be well understood my most unfamiliar people. 

By about 4.5, children should be able to say “r & l”. 

By the time children start school, the only sound that is normal for them to struggle with is “th” (as in ‘thing’). 

It is important to seek help if your child is not saying sounds that are appropriate for their age, because:                     

  •  Generally they won’t learn it themselves and they will be stuck saying the wrong sound. Most children who can’t say “s” correctly by 4.5, may still not be getting it right as an adult, unless they have some speech therapy help.
  • It will affect how well they are understood by other children and adults, effecting their communication and creating frustration.
  • It may have an effect on their early literacy skills

 As with all things speech…. Early intervention is important!

Eastside Speech provide private sessions of Speech Therapy for Toddlers and Preschoolers. Get in touch with one of our Speech Pathologists today on 02 9313 8980.


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.