As children develop their speech abilities, it's not uncommon to have trouble pronouncing the /k/ and /g/ sounds. Frequent speech errors of any sound can be worrisome for parents and caregivers. They can make a child's speech sound immature and baby-ish, and make children hard to be understood by others.
In this post we will review when you should start working on /k/ and /g/ sounds with your child, how to accurately produce these sounds, and some activities you can starting practicing at home today!
When are /K/ and /G/ Errors an Issue?
Correct /k/ and /g/ productions are expected to be present in a child’s speech somewhere between ages 2 and 4. For some children these sounds come easily and naturally, but for others it may take more practice.
Errors of /k/ production are usually pronounced as a /t/. Instead of the word “cat,” you may hear a child say, “tat.”
A mispronounced /g/ is typically pronounced as a /d/. For the word “go,” you may hear a child say, “doe.”
If your child is struggling with pronouncing these sounds, it's wise to begin trying to remediate them earlier than later. Let’s discuss how you know if your child is ready to work on these sounds.
How Do I Know My Child is Ready to Practice the /K/ and /G/ Sounds?
There are several ways that you can assess your child's readiness to begin targeting their /k/ and /g/ productions.
You may want to start by simply having your child imitate your correct productions of /k/ and /g/ sounds. Model one of these sounds, and check how well your child repeats the sound after you. If they are able to mimic you with ease and accuracy, they'd likely do well with continued practice.
Additionally, you can also try some early phonemic awareness tasks to see if your child can identify /k/ and /g/ sounds. You can read more about phonemic awareness here.
Model some words that have a /k/ or /g/ sound in them, regardless of whether these sounds come in the beginning, middle, or end of the word. Ask your child, “Did you hear the /k/ sound?” or “Did you hear the /g/ sound?” Make sure that your child is able to accurately identify words that use these sounds. A child first needs to be able to identify the sounds before they can begin working to correct them.
How to Produce the /K/ and /G/ Sounds
The reason we've lumped the /k/ and /g/ sounds into this article is because they're produced very similarly. When making both sounds, the tip of the tongue points down while the back of the tongue raises upwards toward the soft palate (this is the soft part of the roof of the mouth, towards the back).
Here is where the /k/ and /g/ productions differ:
- For the /k/ sound, the vocal folds do not vibrate - the voice stays off. It's just a quick burst of air that produces the /k/ sound.
- For the /g/ sound, the vocal folds vibrate and the voice turns on. A quick burst of air is used in this sound as well, but the usage of the vocal folds make the /g/ sound deeper than the /k/.
Try it yourself to spot the difference! Put your hand on your throat while pronouncing the /k/ and /g/ sounds. During /g/ productions, you should feel your throat vibrate, but for the /k/ sound, you will not feel any vibration.
Tips to Teach the /K/ and /G/ Sounds
When beginning to practice /k/ and /g/ sounds with your child, standing in front of a mirror can be helpful. This allows your child to easily watch their productions and receive immediate visual feedback.
If they say a /t/ or /d/ sound instead of /k/ and /g/ sound, point it out in the mirror. Remind them to make sure their tongue does not come forward, but rather moves towards the back of the mouth.
Start by practicing productions of /k/ or /g/ in isolation (without placing them in words). You will also want to target the /k/ and /g/ sounds separately, one at a time. Mixing them may initially cause some confusion.
After your child is doing well producing these sounds in isolation, you can move to practicing them in combination with syllables. Once they've mastered syllables, move onto words that include /k/ and /g/ sounds. Eventually, you'll increase the complexity level by using these words in short phrases, sentences, and then ultimately at the conversation level.
Some caregivers wonder whether it's necessary to break up practice into such sequential and structured contexts like this. The truth is that it's very necessary! It would be like teaching calculus before your child mastered algebra.
Children need to practice sound production in a context that is just challenging enough, but not overly demanding. It's important that children master each level with a high degree of accuracy before moving onto the next. This will ensure competency and give them confidence to progress. Slow and steady wins the race!
Activity Ideas to Practice /K/ and /G/ Sounds
Here are some fun and motivating activities to practice the /k/ and /g/ sounds at home. Remember, speech practice is all about persistence and repetition - the more you work with your child at home, the faster they'll reach their communication goals!
- As you read a book with your child, have your child raise their hand for every /k/ or /g/ word they hear. Keep track of how many words your child hears and total it up at the end!
- Crafts are always a crowd pleaser. Flip through some old magazines together and help your child cut out pictures of items that have /k/ and /g/ sounds in them. Then glue the photos onto another piece of paper to create a funny scene. Practice the word productions by having your child say them out loud as you complete the craft together.
- If you have some toy food or a toy kitchen, you can practice the /k/ sound by talking all about cooking. For every toy food your child picks out, they can practice a short sentence like, “I cook cookies,” or “I cook soup.” This can help them practice the /k/ sound in short phrases and sentences once they are ready.
- For /g/ production, have a race with toy cars and say “Ready, set, go!” before every turn. If your child prefers to be on the move, incorporate this into a race between the two of you!
- When your child gets to the point of practicing /k/ and /g/ in conversation, pick a time of day you know they'll be energized and chatty. Ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me what you did at soccer practice,” or “Tell me about your day.” These types of questions will likely generate more conversation from your child than simple "yes" or "no" ones. This will also give you more opportunities to observe /k/ and /g/ sounds for accuracy. Prompt your child to say the sentence again if they do not self-correct any errors themselves.
By implementing the tips above, your child is sure to improve production of these speech sounds. So don’t wait - start practicing with your child today!