How to Teach the S Sound at Home
When parents work with their children at home on their speech therapy goals, progress happens faster (and so does graduation from speech therapy). So here, our resident articulation expert speech therapists go over how to work on the S sound at home.
The S sound is produced by putting the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth, extremely close to but not touching the roof of your mouth. The sides of the tongue are elevated to touch the roof of the mouth, allowing air to travel through the middle. The sides of your tongue should also rest on the sides of your teeth, which should be in a straight line.
Finally, like a grin, the lips should be parted slightly with the corners brought up. Because the /s/ sound is unvoiced (meaning, your vocal folds are not vibrating), it is produced only by air passing through the tunnel established in your mouth and between your teeth.
This is a more difficult sound for children to produce, and it is fairly typical for them to substitute the S sound with the /th/ sound. For example, they might say “thun” instead of “sun.” This is a type of lisp.
S sound in toddlers
By the age of three, your child should be able to recognize the S sound, and by the age of seven or eight, he or she should have mastered it. This sound has a bit more flexibility in terms of age or acquisition, but if your child is having problems pronouncing it, the longer you wait to seek help, the more difficult it may be to correct the sound. If your child is above the age of eight and still has a lisp or other issue with sound, you should get help from a qualified speech-language pathologist as soon as possible.
At any stage in your child’s language development, practicing articulation at home can be a wonderful activity for you and your child. Schedule specific time to spend working on articulation with your child and take advantage of smaller moments like making dinner or walking to the park to reinforce your practice.
RELATED VIDEO: Different types of Lisps
Here are a few speech therapist recommended activities for you and your child to practice at home:
S Sound Verbal Cues
When practicing a certain sound with your child, start by saying the sound slowly and clearly to your child. Say it one at a time, for a few seconds each, using a sound like S that has no actual end point and can be stretched out: “sssss.” This helps your child grasp the particular sound you’ll be emphasizing and gives them a good model to follow.
Move on to simple syllables as your child learns the particular sound:
“so, so, so,” “see, see, see,” “sa, sa, sa.”
With time and repetition, your child will be able to progress to:
- Words – sun, see, soap, safe, same (and more complex S blends like: stay, slip, snow)
- Phrases – I see the dog, The sun is out, I feel the same.
- Conversation – Talk about snow, talk about what you see
S Sound Visual Cues
When a sound is accompanied by a visual cue, it helps to ground the concept for a child and establishes a link for them to recall the sound in the future. Place your index fingers at the corner of your lips and bring them back towards your ears while stretching your mouth to form the S sound for your child (like a smile). Encourage them to repeat the process each time the sound is said. For even more visual input, practice with a mirror.
So the visual cues can be:
- Using a mirror
- Tell them to smile
- Remind them to close their teeth
S Sound Tactile Cues
Speech therapists frequently utilize tools like a tongue depressor or a toothbrush to assist kids to learn mouth positioning for various sounds. For tactile (touch) support with articulation, ask a speech-language pathologist about how to use simple at home tools like these to help a child learn where they should place the parts of their mouth to produce a sound. They can even use their fingers. For the S sound they can hold each corner of their mouth and gently pull towards their ears to form a smile.
RELATED VIDEO: Sounds for Speech at Home
Awesome S Sound Activities
The S sound is particularly fun because it is the “snake sound”. Put your hands together with the palms flat and facing each other, then move your arms side to side as though you are a snake. Encourage your child to do the same and slither around the house together making the S sound.
Create games and challenges for your little snake; they need to name and then eat every object he finds that begins with S, or they must introduce himself to all the family members as “I am Sam, the slimy, slithering snake!” Kids love these activities and they are a great way to reinforce the S sound!