Speech Development 

To put it simply, speech development refers to the pronunciation of sounds. It may also be called articulation or articulation development. How a person says sounds depends on movement and placement of the tongue, teeth, jaw, breath, and voice box.  

Now, how sounds develop and deciding if a child has a delay or disorder is a bit more complicated and is dependent on many factors.

Speech & Intelligibility Development

When Do Sounds Develop?

Speech develops in a continuumSome sounds are much easier to say than others. For example, motorically speaking, it is easier to say "b" than "r." Therefore, we expect that a child will learn to say "b" correctly before he can say "r" correctly.

If a child is not saying a sound by a certain age, he or she may need speech therapy in order to learn that sound. Again, the decision for therapy will depend on many factors such as the type of errors, errors across context/placement in words, stimulability, and more!

The charts below are widely used by speech-language pathologists. They show when a child should develop a certain sound and can be used to help determine the necessity of speech therapy. 

Articulation Chart (Ages)

How to use this chart:  Below you will see a chart listing ages and sounds. First, find the age of your child on the left. Then look at the corresponding row for what sounds he or she should be saying.  Your child should be able to say these sounds "most of the time," about 90%.  An error here or there is okay and normal. 

This chart is simple and more of a checklist. However, I prefer the chart below.

Articulation Chart (Continuum)

How to use this chart:  This chart is a bit more complicated to understand correctly. The top/bottom of the chart lists age in years. The bars on the graph list sounds. 

This is the IMPORTANT PART to understand:

  • The beginning of the bar indicates when 50% of children are able to say a sound correctly (by age). 
  • The end of the bar indicates when 90% of children are able to say a sound correctly (mastery).

Personally, if I can talk to parents in person, I PREFER THIS CHART. It shows why you might not want to wait until the age of mastery for sounds to start therapy if there are no indications that the child will learn the sound with time. 

The chart created by Sanders (1972) differentiates acquisition by gender; however, to make things simple, I combined the two. Remember, this is just a reference, not a tool to diagnosis or qualify a child for therapy.

Speech Intelligibility

What is speech intelligibility?

Speech intelligibility is another important factor to consider. Intelligibility is how well someone understands what you are saying.

It is best to judge intelligibility by an unfamiliar listener.

How to use this chart: Your child still may not be saying all of his sounds correctly by 4 years of age (for example, r, l, z).  But, even with these errors, an unfamiliar listener should understand what he is saying 100% of the time!

**** I recommend seeking out a speech-language pathologist for a consultation if you have any concerns, why not?! It can't hurt! You can always contact us with any questions too!

If you are concerned about your child and want more info on speech disorders, we got you covered! Read Speech Development Disorders for more information.

My child isn't saying all the sounds listed by her age.
What Should I do?

If you are concerned, please reach out to your local school district or a local speech-language pathologist or schedule a consultation with us to discuss your concerns 

However, if you want to start working on sounds right away read our speech activities for home practice ideas. It is a great place to start! Playing games with your child and modeling correct speech is always a good idea :)

For more tailored activities and step-by-step teaching strategies, cueing techniques, flashcards, word lists and specific games for each sound, check out our member's section. For a small fee, you will have access to everything you need.

We also have apps and books to help you. If you have any questions about these materials, feel free to contact us. We are waiting to hear from you!

Free Printable Charts

If you need free printable articulation charts (the 3 charts above) to track progress or to provide to parents as handouts/references, please just answer a few questions and the charts are all yours! You will also join our free newsletter. 

Free Articulation Charts

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Speech Development

Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series


  1. Goldman, R., & Fristoe, M. (2000). The Goldman-Fristoe Test of Articulation. 
  2. Sander, E. 1972. When are speech sounds learned? Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders
  3. SMIT A. ET AL., 1990. The Iowa Articulation Norms Project and Its Nebraska Replication, Journal of speech and Hearing Disorders
  4. Clinical experience