Where[Way-uh}? Over there[they-uh].
June 14, 2011 12:18 PM   Subscribe

How can I help my 3 year old with his pronunciation?

While I understand that my 3 year old son will eventually grow out of this phase, he seems to have difficulty pronouncing his R's. Specifically, words that end in an "AIR" sound at the end of the words like THERE or WHERE. When he says these words they sound like THEY-UH and WAY-UH.

Speech therapy seems like overkill right now since he's still developing. However, I feel like we should at least work towards correcting this speech pattern. Are there any suggested methods that could help him?
posted by unceman to Education (26 answers total)
Sounds pretty normal for that age, frankly. I've heard that style of pronunciation from oodles of kids over the years. It's just them learning. It, too, will pass. Go play catch.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:22 PM on June 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

Keep talking to him.
He's learning.
You're teaching. With every statement.
Just speak correctly. At this age you don't need to correct him.
posted by Seamus at 12:30 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

At three, my son said "lellow" instead of "yellow" and my daughter had a crazy Southern accent (especially "Two little blackbirds sitting on a hee-yull | One named Jack, one named Jee-yull") and other adorable things. Modeling the correct pronunciation yourself out to be enough.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:31 PM on June 14, 2011

out = ought, sorry
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:31 PM on June 14, 2011

Are there any suggested methods that could help him?

This is kind of like saying "My 3 year old is currently only a few feet tall, are there any methods to help him grow taller?" Children acquire language ability naturally, as long as you continue talking around him his language skills will continue to improve.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:32 PM on June 14, 2011 [33 favorites]

Agreed that it sounds completely normal. However, practicing a minute or two a day is alright too. My son (almost 5) has had some speech difficulties. We made a whisper phone (aka phonics phone) for him out of pvc pipe and fittings. The concept is that he will talk quietly into the "phone" which then delivers what he said right back to his ear. So, he's really hearing exactly what he's saying. So, now he knows when he says "just" that it really sounds like "dust" and he can then correct himself (of course we help him with the correct way of saying it). We'll usually get the whisper phone out once a day and go through a few sentences or flash card words. It helps and he thinks it's so fun to use!

They are very easy and CHEAP to make. Here are some pictures of a whisper phone. Also, google "whisper phone" or "phonics phone" for more information or how to make them.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Agreed that it seems like a pretty normal pronunciation for kids that age -- and that most grow out of it naturally. Talk to him like an adult and try to ensure that those around him don't talk down to him in a "kid's voice" as well -- as that won't help things.

And as a kid who went through speech therapy for two years because of an occasional mispronunciation and pressure from teachers at the time, my parents freely admit now that those mispronunciations were made worse because I was told that I was doing something wrong and I kept focusing on my errors rather than naturally growing out of them. YMMV.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

My kid is three and struggles with L's and Rs. We don't worry about this, we think it's adorable. She's "Please hope me" and she doesn't even have a Metafilter account.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

Yep, what you're describing is totally within the typical range for speech at that age. He's hearing you and is learning to make the sound. Just keep talking to him and it should take care of itself.
posted by goggie at 12:33 PM on June 14, 2011

Unless he has a hearing problem, I'd wait. If he does have a hearing problem, then it's probably better to start dealing with it now. I have a severe hearing impairment, my parents waited until I was 5 to start speech therapy, and I still have trouble being understood as an adult. (Note: I'm not sure that starting earlier would have helped.)
posted by desjardins at 12:37 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just keep speaking with him and demonstrating, by your own speech, the sort of pronunciation that you think he should learn. He'll learn to pronounce things right soon enough. It's not that he's dumb or isn't trying hard enough or anything like that, it's just that he's learning.

Or I guess you could move someplace where his current pronunciation is consistent with the local dialect.
posted by The World Famous at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, make sure that the majority of the conversations that you're having with your 3-year old are face to face. I noticed that with my guy he'll be a ton better if he's looking at me and seeing how I'm forming the sounds coming out of my mouth. If there's a particularly difficult sound I make sure that he watches me closely and that I speak slowly and clearly so he can see what I'm saying.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just talk normally. He's three. He'll be fine.
posted by valkyryn at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nthing the "just talk to him normally and he'll get it." You'll only run into a problem if you "adopt" his pronunciation for things (i.e., you start saying "THEY-UH" too), because then he will start to think "oh, that's the way it's supposed to sound." But if you just keep talking and pronouncing things normally, he'll catch on.

He's three. He's fine.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:59 PM on June 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

R is a really hard phoneme, it takes some kids a long time to get it. Agreeing with the above posters that modelling is the best thing you can do at this point - not correcting. I wouldn't call any more attention to it at this point. The problem with correcting errors at this age is that some kids will just shut down and refuse to talk at all, and that sucks.

Also, R is one of the hardest sounds to elicit/teach. Unless you know what you're doing, you may just be reinforcing a bad production:

Say there.
- theyuh
No, say THERE
- theyuh
Say it like this: THERRRRRR
- theyuh

Aaaaand now your kid just got a ton of practice saying theyuh.
posted by lilnublet at 1:03 PM on June 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't ever recall running into any particularly articulate 3 year-olds (ex-nursery school teacher and nanny). Given that boys are usually later than girls in speech, I'd say he's right about where he should be. I agree with everyone else, just model the correct speech forms for him and don't pressure him, he's fine. If he still has problems in kindergarten and the school doesn't provide specialized help, then look at speech therapists.

One thing that will help straighten out a kids speech is nursery school . The other kids don't interpret as well as the adults/family that child normally interacts with, so they are forced to learn the language. The interaction with the other kids provides more motivation then you can.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:03 PM on June 14, 2011

Don't imitate, obviously, or make a fuss. Don't over-correct. Just talk back in a normal fashion.
posted by Namlit at 1:45 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

R is a hard sound for kids to get. This is totally normal for his age. (Former pre-school teacher and nanny here).

Best thing you can do is just to repeat the words correctly after he says them. Don't make this into a big deal, don't try to get him to repeat it himself, just emphasize the correct pronunciation and move on.

(So, yeah, everything doctor_negative said. And they totally learn speech faster from their peers than from their parents! I've seen it happen tons, including kids picking up English as a second language within months of entering an English speaking class having had zero previous exposure to the language.)
posted by sonika at 3:02 PM on June 14, 2011

Read this.

Of note: under age 3-4 it says "uses most speech sounds but may distort some of the more difficult sounds such as l, r, s, sh, ch, y, v, z, th - these sounds may not be fully mastered until age 7 or 8"
posted by peep at 3:33 PM on June 14, 2011

Nthing that it's normal. However, one thing that helps, apparently, is getting kids off the sippy cup and having them drink from a regular cup instead. This strengthens the same muscles needed for a lot of sounds. I was given this tip by an occupational therapist many years ago when my children were young, and it seemed to make a difference. In the meantime, though, just enjoy the sound of three!
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 4:09 PM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sounds completely normal to me. Just keep talking to him.
The last words my kids had trouble with were sandals (sanda les) and pillow (pli-doh).
That was also in the three's, or theraabouts.

(Enjoy the baby phase while it lasts. I still miss hearing her say pli-doh. She was so cute!
She's twenty now and goes to bachlorette parties where the featured word is 'penis-straws.' )

My kid sister hung onto b for an initial V for a long time. "Bic-toria"
posted by SLC Mom at 4:11 PM on June 14, 2011

When my cousin was three, he couldn't pronounce S sounds - "snake" became "nake", "spider" became "pider", "sleep" became "leep". It was adorable and he grew out of it.
posted by Xany at 4:28 PM on June 14, 2011

Yep, my four year old is just growing out of this. Pre-school has speech evaluation and said he was totally within normal patterns.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:06 PM on June 14, 2011

It'll be gone too soon. Nothing like an exhilarated cry for "LELP!!" when you are zombie-chasing a preschooler round the house.
posted by Iteki at 10:16 PM on June 14, 2011

Don't worry. Its totally within normal range, and you will soon be missing all those cute little mis-pronunciations. Write them down, so you can giggle at them later! My son just turned four, and also says they-uh and way-uh, sometimes misses the leading S off words, has a lisp, and all those other normal toddler things.

Modelling correct pronunciation is the best thing you can do. I often repeat back what my son said, as if I am confirming that I understood it correctly. This confirms if I understood him correctly (heh), and serves to model the correct pronunciation. For example "Mama, are we staying in the ho-tay-ul again tonight?". "A hotel? No, not tonight".
posted by Joh at 10:42 PM on June 14, 2011

This book with fun exercises for helping kids pronounce their "r"s got good reviews on Amazon:

I looked into it because my husband was concerned about our 4-year old's "r"s, but I convinced him that we don't need to worry about that for another year or two. Still, the reviews sound like you can incorporate some of the techniques into your playtime without making a big deal out of it.
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:31 AM on June 15, 2011

« Older Adventure-type activities for a week in Spain?   |   Looking for an apartment in Austin Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.