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Minimal pairs games to help discriminate speech sounds

Minimal pairs are sets of words when the meaning of the word is changed by replacing one sound (usually the first sound).  Eg sea/tea (but it could be the final sound too). They are used to work on listening skills with children with speech difficulties.

Sets of words are chosen using the target sound and the child’s substitution sound. Make sure you have Sounds pictures for each of the initial or final sounds to show the child as you are doing the activities. You could also use actions to represent a sound as well, such as the Jollyphonics actions or cued articulation. This will give them extra help and support to remember to use the new sound.

Games ideas

Show the child a few pairs and make sure they are familiar with the words and pictures (they don’t have to say the words). Use a motivating toy eg toy robot/animal/cartoon character and tell the child they have to make the toy jump onto the word when you say it.


The child points with a magic wand.

Put the cards on the floor and the child jumps on the right card.

Place cards on the floor and the child rolls a car onto the correct word.

Place the cards in front of some skittles. The child has to knock down the correct skittle.

Make sets of lotto boards and cards using a set of minimal pairs eg. s and t words. The child chooses the collecting board they want to use, the adult has the other one. Place individual word cards on the table face down. The child picks up a card but doesn’t look at the picture. The adult says the word and the child decides if they have it on their board and collects as in normal lotto. When it’s the adult’s turn they say the word and the child decides if the adult has the word on their board.