Fun Speech Therapy Activities to Practice Sounds, Letters, and Words

As young children learn to talk, many struggle to articulate certain sounds correctly. In fact, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, speech problems are the most common communication disorder affecting nearly 5% of all children. 

Speech errors can manifest themselves in several ways. Children may substitute one sound for another (ex: saying “thing” instead of “sing”), omit sounds (ex: saying “nana” instead of “banana”) or distort their /r/ sound. 

While these speech errors may naturally correct themselves over time for some, others can experience problems that persist into adulthood. Any child that struggles to produce targeted sounds or words past a certain age may be at risk for a speech sound disorder. 

Practice and persistence are key to your child’s success. Even if you’re currently working with a speech-language pathologist, incorporating at-home practice into your child’s everyday life is instrumental in improving their articulation. However, drilling your child all day with flashcards can become a little dull and repetitive. 

Below we’ve provided some fun and engaging activities to help your child master their speech sounds! Let’s jump in.

  • Memory Matching Games: These fantastic free word lists from Mommy Speech Therapy include words organized by targeted sounds, as well as accompanying photos. They’re also classified by whether the targeted sound falls within the beginning, middle, or end of a word (for example, “pie” v.s. “open” v.s. “cup”). There are so many ways fun games and activities that can be adopted from these word lists to help improve your child’s speech sound practice. One childhood favorite is a memory matching game which, in addition to improving their speech sounds, can also help with a child’s critical thinking and working memory skills. Simply print out a few copies of each photo, turn them upside down, and scatter them across a table. Each time your child uncovers a matching pair, they have to practice pronouncing that target sound or use it correctly within the word. 
  • Mad Libs: What child doesn’t love crafting silly stories and making funny sentences? If your child has started using sentences in their conversational speech, but is still making speech sound errors, try playing a fun game of Mad Libs. You can find a list of themed Mad Libs stories here to download. Depending on which sounds your child is struggling to produce, use the target words listed above and incorporate them within the Mad Libs stories. Then, simply have your child read the story out loud, once sentence at a time, paying particularly close attention to their sound pronunciation. At this stage, don’t worry about how grammatically correct the sentences are or whether nouns/adjectives/verbs are used properly. What’s important is that your child is practicing
  • Word Searches: Another fun activity is word searches! You can use the targeted words to make a quick word search here. Simply insert the words you’d like your child to practice, and this website will automatically generate a custom word search. Every time your child successfully finds a word, have them practice repeating it three times. 
  • Sound Game: If you’ve played some version of the Alphabet Game or Categories, this is essentially the same concept except with more focus on target sounds and words. With the Alphabet game, you brainstorm a category (i.e., animals, foods, cars) and then take turns thinking of an item that starts with each letter. This version of the game targets specific speech sounds. If your child is working on the /s/ sound, you can take turns thinking of words that start with /s/, such as “sun,” “sand,” and “sing.” This is a great game to play in the car, where your child is exposed to so many different objects that can inspire and stimulate their imagination. 
  • Home Scavenger Hunt: If your child is old enough to use a basic camera, this is a fun activity to get your child moving! You and your child race around the house taking pictures of everything you can find that starts with a targeted sound. For example, if your child is practicing their /l/ words, you could take pictures of a lemon, the lawn, Lego, your laptop, a lamp, etc.
  • Singing Songs: Even if your child isn’t quite speaking fluently yet, many kiddos love to express themselves through singing, music, and nursery rhymes. One simple way to incorporate speech sound practice into their favorite songs is to simply take a short pause at the end of a line and let them fill in the blank. For example, if they’re practicing their /s/ sounds, you could say “twinkle, twinkle little ____” and see if they’ll fill in the rest. If they’re working on their /r/ sounds, you could sing “the wheels on the bus go round and ____.”
  • Other Games: The truth is, speech sound practice can be integrated into whichever turn taking games or activities your child already enjoys. If they like playing board games like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, simply have them repeat the sounds or words between each turn. If they like playing card games, the same concept still applies!

Tips for Working with Your Child on Speech Sounds

Every child develops on their own timeline. It can take some kiddos much longer to master their speech sounds and perfectly articulate that /s/ or /r/ sound. Regardless of which activities your child enjoys, here are some helpful tips to keep children motivated and engaged.

  • Repetition: Just like learning any new skill, speech and language skills takes lots of hard work and practice. Children learn best through repetition; the more they practice the targeted speech sounds, the more likely they are to start using them correctly. Try to engage your child in meaningful practice for at least 30 minutes a day, or break this time up into smaller chunks if you notice them becoming agitated or restless. 
  • Model Speech Sounds: Children learn to communicate by listening and imitating those around them. Make sure to frequently use the speech sounds your child is struggling with throughout their day-to-day lives. If they’re having trouble with the /s/ sound, everytime they wash their hands you can say “Here’s the soap. Scrub your hands with the soap. See how to do it?”
  • Don’t Overcorrect: It can be tempting to interrupt your child and highlight their mistakes whenever they speak. However, resist this urge as much as possible. Overcorrecting your child can lead to feelings of discouragement and embarrassment, which in turn may make them avoid practicing altogether. Instead, continue to correctly model the sound and word throughout their daily routines and maintain an encouraging tone. 
  • Reward: When your child says a sound correctly in isolation, or produces an accurate word, or completes their daily practice, be sure to reward them! This can include lots of praise, big smiles, or exuberant clapping. You may also want to give them one of their favorite treats as well if they’ve worked hard!

What to Do If Your Child is Still Struggling

If you notice your child is struggling with articulation or their communication is lagging behind other children their own age, speak with your pediatrician or seek professional help from a speech-language pathologist. 

You can learn more about age-appropriate milestones your child should be reaching and when to consider speech therapy for your child here

Speech therapists are communication experts that work with children on a range of communication issues, including their speech, language, voice, or swallowing. By thoroughly evaluating your child’s strengths and deficients, they’ll recommend a personalized treatment tailored to their needs. Many children are eligible for speech therapy through their schools. Parents and caregivers seeking more individualized, one-on-one attention often seek services at a private clinic.

Additionally, many parents are also increasingly turning to online speech therapy as a more affordable and convenient option to in-person services. Speech therapy delivered virtually allows families to receive effective, high-quality care from the comfort and safety of their homes. 

Guest post

About Leanne Sherred, M.S. CCC-SLP:

Leanne calls Austin, Texas home but studied Speech and Hearing Sciences at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and gained her Master's in Speech-language pathology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She has worked in pediatric outpatient clinics, schools, early intervention, and home health. Leanne is currently the President and Founder of Expressable online speech therapy, a company that envisions a modern and affordable way for anyone who needs speech therapy to access these vital services. 

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