How To Work On K and G Sounds
Does your child say “tup” for “cup” or “doe” for “go?” When children substitute the “t” sound for “k” or the “d” sound for “g,” it’s called fronting. This is a fairly common substitution for children as they are learning their sounds and starting to talk. It is not considered normal as your child gets older. By the age of four years, children should be making their “k” and “g” sounds consistently. If you have a three-year-old who is still consistently substituting front sounds (t, d) for back sounds (k, g) speech therapy may be necessary to help your child work on “k” and “g” sounds.
Some children require more direct teaching to learn how to move their tongue in order to make “k” and “g” sounds. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has more information on sound pattern errors and when they should be eliminated. You can also check out our blog on speech sound development for more information.
Why Are K’s and G’s Hard To Make?
K’s and g’s are a little trickier to teach than some other sounds. This is because it’s hard to see what your tongue is doing when you make them. Unlike “b” or “t” which are very visual sounds. You can easily see what your tongue and lips are doing to make them. “K” and “g” are made with the back of your tongue elevating to the back roof of your mouth (velum). This isn’t easily visible.
Modeling Is Important
One of the most important things you can do if your child is having a hard time making k’s and g’s (or any sound for that matter) is modeling the correct way to make the sound. If you hear your child say “tar” for “car” repeat the word correctly. For example, if your child says, “I want the red tar,” you would then say, “I want the red car.” It’s also helpful to emphasize the target word. This way your child can start to become aware of the difference in their production and your production. Along with repeating the word using the correct sounds, it’s also helpful and easy to provide a visual cue. As you are saying “car” you can touch your throat to show your child that the “k” sound is made in the back of the mouth.
How To Practice “K” and “G” Sounds
Some children may only need correct models and a little visual reinforcement in order to start making their “k” and “g” sounds correctly. Others may need a little more help including hands on support. In order to make the “k” and “g” sounds the back of your tongue has to elevate and make contact with your soft palate. Because of this, “k” and “g” sounds are great to work on before bed, while your child is laying down. This may help their tongue to naturally relax. Gravity will help to elevate the back of their tongue to the roof of their mouth.
Great Books For Practicing Sounds
There are some children’s books that have lots of “k” and “g” sounds too. These would be a great addition to your night time story routine. Your child will be able to hear the sounds being made correctly multiple times. It would also be a great time to practice some of the words you read.
Books for K sound:
The Cow That Went OINK by Bernard Most
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
If You Give a Cat a Cupcake by Laura Numeroff
Books for G sound:
Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site by Jane Belk Moncure
We’re Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
Gooey Gummy Geese by Angela Holzer
More Tips and Tricks to Make “K” and “G” Sounds
Lastly, sometimes a tactile reinforcement such as use of a Dum Dum lollipop, a tongue depressor, or even your finger may help them to learn how to keep the tip of their tongue down while elevating the back of their tongue. It may be beneficial to have a speech pathologist guide you initially on how to provide these tactile cues. Use a Dum Dum to gently press down on the tip of their tongue while slightly pushing back. While doing this, you can model the “k” or “g” sound for your child to imitate. Holding the tip of the tongue down with the lollipop keeps the tip of their tongue from rising to make the “t” or “d” sound.
The Dum Dum can also be used to touch the back of their tongue and the back section of the roof of their mouth. This will allow them to start to feel where the correct part of their tongue needs to move in their mouth. Mouths are sensitive areas though, so be mindful not to push to hard or move the Dum Dum too far back. This could make your child gag.
Seeking Additional Help
If you have tried these things with your kiddo, and they still seem to be having trouble, it might be time to reach out to a speech-language pathologist. They can provide additional help to work on their “k” and/or “g” sounds. An SLP will be able to provide direct guided instruction. They will also be able to rule out if your child is having any other challenges which may be causing their difficulty making k’s and g’s.