/k/ is such a common sound for children to mis-pronounce right up until the age of 4:0. 50% of children will have the sound by the time by the time they are 3:6 and 90% by the time they are 4, so if you have a 4 or 5 year old who is still saying "tat" for cat, chances are it's not going to change without a little directed intervention. 

We generally recommend modelling back the correct pronunciation in context "that's right, it's lovely CAT" but for some children, this won't be enough. You'll get a feel as to whether they are up for being corrected - if you say, "can you say Cat" emphasising the sound and they go all shy and shake their heads, well they're not ready or it. But some children (especially when they are a bit older) are completely up for being corrected - they've just never been told before that the sound is at the back of their mouth - it's like a revelation to them!

I go into this in a bit more detail in this blog about when to - and when not to correct a child - but let's get back to talking about /k/. Maybe you have referred the child to SLT already and there's a 70 year long waiting list or whatever it is now - or maybe you haven't, either way, there are a few activities you can be doing with a child to get them /k/ ready!

Activities to prepare a child for saying /k/

Ok, just a little reminder that when I write the phoneme /k/ this means the sound that comes at the beginning of cat and kangaroo, but not knee. I know you know, but just in case!

  • Introduce the concept of front and back. Talk about the front/back of the queue, front/back of your body, front/back of the crocodile's mouth. /k/ is said using the back of the tongue, but most children use the tip of their tongue instead.
  • Encourage listening activities - this does need to be in a quiet room, because some adults can't hear the difference between /t/ and /k/ let alone the children. In a noisy room. If you have already introduced a phonics scheme such as Jolly Phonics, then you could introduce the 't' and 'k' pictures and ask them to sort toys according to whether they start with a 't' or a 'k' sound (teddy, cake, cup, cat, two, tiger etc)
  • Introduce sounds into everyday play, e.g. the water dripping says "t-t-t" when you take a picture, it clicks like "k"
  • Encourage the children to say the sound by itself by opening their mouth up wide.

Some of my P1 (year 1 South of the border) children, that's all it takes as when they are learning phonics, it all falls into place.  I always follow the lead of the child. If they are not interested, I just give them opportunities to hear the sound and I might point out "that's a sound that we make at the back of our mouths" without any expectation for them to attempt the sound. 

If the child finds it impossible to imitate the sound and they kind of grope with their tongue to find the right tongue position, you might want to request the assistance of a speech and lagnauge therapist.