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Our guide to speech sounds

Babies are born with the ability to communicate with you. From the very beginning they are listening to what you say and the intonation you use.

To start with they use their cries to let you know if they are hungry, tired, need entertaining or changing. From about 4 months old they start to use vowel sounds (cooing), and will take turns with you to copy your vowel sounds – a simple conversation! Babies add to these sounds and by 9 months are usually able to produce strings of sounds, e.g. mumumum. These sounds gradually become more varied and some are shortened towards vocalisations that sound more like words, e.g. dada, uh (up), goh (gone).

Children learn the sounds of speech gradually. Many young children’s speech in the first few years will be unclear and often difficult to understand. It is important to remember that such difficulties are common to many young children and that in most cases they will get better by themselves. A child may not produce all the sounds necessary for English until the age of six.

Speech development can be affected by:

Everyday strategies

Encourage the child to clarify, using one or more of the following strategies:


Activities focusing on speech sounds: