Silent letters, “rules” that have more exceptions than the norm, and letters that make different sounds when combined with others… Ah, yes, the English language is a mess when it comes to spelling.  Why IS there an “e” at the end of so many words that makes no sound at all?  Who in the world decided that “I before E” was a rule or that I’s and E’s together were even necessary as they sometimes make the “ay” sound like “neighbor” – ugh.  Trying to help my kindergartner understand some of these AND that “ph” is actually an “f” sound (our most recent discussion)… whew, this is complicated.

BUT, this article isn’t about writing or spelling – thankfully.  This is about helping our little ones learn to talk.  As adults we often think of a word as it is spelled.  I want my little one to say my name so I think MOMMY in my head.  I want her to say “car” so I see this spelling in my head.  I don’t have to worry yet that sometimes it could be a “k” that makes that sound.   Visualizing the word in our minds is usually ok when we are helping little ones with talking, but I often find it creates confusion with the letter T.

It’s perfectly normal for a little one to say “wawa” when they want water.  Naturally we try to help her say it more clearly and repeat back “wa-TER”.  This is the problem.

Do YOU naturally say “waTer” with a “t” sound in the middle of that word?  Most Americans don’t.  We say something like “wadder”.  Most of the time we make middle “t” sounds like a “d” when there are vowel sounds surrounding it.  Examples (read aloud): little, better, bottle, batter, hotter, later, fighter, butter, cheetah, spaghetti, computer.  Did you use a “t” sound or a “d” sound?

Here’s another issue with T in the middle – sometimes we don’t say it at all!  Read these examples aloud: kitten, mitten, button, football, wanted, mountain, interview.  Did you say “t” in those words?

What’s my point?  Well, if we want to help our little ones say “water” correctly then don’t overemphasize the “t” if you normally wouldn’t say it.  If you wouldn’t normally say “t” when looking at the cuddly kitten in the book, then don’t emphasize “kiTTen” when you model it for your child.  If you want your child to say words the same way you do, sometimes we have to forget about how we spell and just say it how we say it!

Here are some other thoughts about letters and sounds and speaking and writing…

If your older child needs to correct the “s” sound be sure to include the word “ceiling” but not the word “shoe”.

If you’re practicing T words then include the word “toy” but not “train” as we usually say “tr” with more of a “ch” sound.

Lastly, if focusing on W words be sure to include the number “one”.  Yep, O-N-E starts with a “w” sound!

Gotta love the English language.  It’s a wonder anyone learns how to spell or speak! Ha!

For more information about a toddler’s speech development, you may want to read:

Toddler Speech: unraveling the mystery

For toys to help with talking, you may want to check out:

Best toys and gifts: a speech therapist’s list!