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Tips for Producing the “th” Sound by Chicago Speech and More

Tips for Producing the “th” Sounproducing the "th' soundd

Thursday is the perfect day to practice producing the “th” sound with your child.  There are two different “th” sounds in the English language: the voiced “th” (this, though, then) and the voiceless “th” (Thursday, think, thumb). Although both sounds are produced with the same mouth position, the voiced “th” requires use of the vocal cords.

The “th” sound is difficult to produce and many children have trouble with it.  Until he was six, my nephew said “hank-you” (for thank-you) which we thought was the cutest thing until he asked us if we were eating turkey for Hanksgiving- what’s cuter than that?  While some children say the “th” sound right away, mastery isn’t expected until age seven (voiceless “th”) and age eight (voiced “th”).

*If your child still has difficulty with “th” at these ages it is recommended to seek guidance from a trained and licensed speech-language pathologist. *


It doesn’t hurt to practice at home with your little ones. Here are some tips from Chicago Speech and More for helping your child to produce the “th” sound.

Speech Therapy Hierarchy- from sounds to conversation

Sound Level                                                                                                                                    

As with most sounds, it’s best to start at the sound level.  Production of “th” is visual, making it great to teach.  To produce either sound (voiced or voiceless), place the tongue tip between your teeth while blowing air at the same time. Work with your child in front of a mirror. Show them how it looks when you make the “th” sound and have them imitate the action.  To demonstrate airflow, have your child put their hand in front of their mouth when articulating “th” to feel the air coming through. When producing the voiced “th” have your child place their finger(s) on your throat to feel the vibration your vocal cords make.

Syllable Level                                                                                                                          

Once your child has mastered the ability to produce the “th” sound move onto the syllable level.  Try adding a vowel to the end or beginning of the sound (tha, they, thee, the, tho or ath, eth, ith). While most children find it easier to produce syllables when the target sound occurs at the beginning (tha), this is not always the case. Try out both positions to see what works best for your child and work on the one they are most successful with.

Word Level                                                                                                                           

When you child can say syllables move onto the word level.  If it was easier for your child to produce syllables beginning with the target sound, use words beginning with the sound (thumb, thanks, this, that).  If your child had more success when the sound occurred in the final position, begin with words ending in “th” (bath, with, bathe).  Begin with whichever position your child is more successful with and progress throughout all word positions (initial, medial (bathtub), final). I have found it beneficial to continue using a mirror at this stage.

Phrase/Sentence Level                                                                                                      

Once mastery is achieved at the word level, begin to add these words into phrases and then sentences.  Using carrier phrases such as “The ______” (phrase level) or “This is a ___________” or “They have a ______” (sentence level) can provide additional opportunities to use the target sound. Try coming up with different carrier phrases. Don’t be afraid to get a little silly with your children.

Paragraph/Short Story Level                                                                                      

Following accurate production at the sentence level, move onto paragraphs. The easiest way to do this is to create a simple story containing your target sound (“th”) and have your child retell it back to you.

Conversation Level                                                                                              

The last step in our hierarchy is to practice the “th” in conversations.  Although there might be occasional speech sound errors, your child should be producing “th” correctly most of the time.

Speech Therapy Activities for “th” Sound

Let’s face it- kids just want to have fun.Practicing speech sounds is no exception. There are plenty of fun activities to incorporate into your speech therapy.  Here are a few of Chicago Speech and More’s favorites:

  • Picture cards are great and can be used to play memory or go-fish. These games can be used at various levels in our speech therapy hierarchy.  (Word level -child simply labels the card. Phrase level- “the ________”. Sentence Level- “I picked the___________”, “Do you have the ___________”, etc.).
  • If your child is artistic, have them create their own “th” picture cards.
  • Go through a magazine and cut out different pictures of items that have the “th” sound in them. Make a collage with the pictures.
  • You can also play games like “I Spy” and find words containing the target sound “th”.

*Click the link below for pictures of “th” in all word positions. Make 2 copies and cut apart to use in Memory or Go-Fish.

“th” picture cards

The possibilities are endless- just remember to have fun.

Categories : Sam's Blog, Tips

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