Do you have a Communication Champion in your setting? Then this might be right up their street!

I want to tell you about my 6-week #howtosay challenge. It's an e-mail challenge that you can sign up to - and it's completely free  - to help children who are unclear in their speech.

Over the last few weeks, I've talked a lot about language development and vocabulary building and that's all really important. It's the 'cake' in children's speech, language and communication but the icing on the cake is speech, i.e. sounds and pronunciation. It goes without saying that if a child is going to be successful with literacy when they go into their first year at school, it's going to be really helpful if they can actually say the sounds that they are connecting to the letters they will be learning.

I have just screened all the children that are going to be moving up into school in one particular nursery. It took me about ten minutes for each child so I was easily able to do twenty children in a morning and I identified a handful of children who had difficulty with one particular sound. These children were chatty, they had good attention skills, they had good social interaction and actually, if you were to ask their keyworker, they probably wouldn't highlight any concerns. All of them were fairly confident communicators, but if they could just work on a couple of sounds it would help them to be a bit clearer and also when they go up to school, when they're making those connections between sounds and letters, it will help them to be more confident and less confused. 

So my six-week challenge is for those children with just a couple of speech errors. Here's a list of who it's not for:

  • children who can't sit and interact with an adult for ten minutes
  • children who perhaps don't have enough language skills yet
  • children who are so unintelligible that you just wouldn't know where to start in order to start targeting their sounds.


The #howtosay six-week challenge is for children who perhaps just need a little bit of help and they would be well on their way to having a fully contrastive speech sound system.  As soon as you sign up you instantly start to receive emails to support your child, whether you are an early years practitioner, ENCO or parents. 

Stages of 6-week challenge

Week 1

Auditory discrimination between the two sounds. For example, can the child hear the difference between the sound they're not using yet (e.g. k) and the sound that they are using instead (e.g. t)

Week 2

Auditory discrimination again. This time, listening to the difference between sounds at the beginning of words so, for example, toffee versus coffee, or tea versus key.

Week 3

Week three is all about practising the sound by itself. If the child truly cannot imitate the sound yet, then you might need to leave it or seek the advice of a speech and language therapist, but very often they can say the sounds by itself, it's just that they're not using it.

Week 4

Week four is all about blending that new sound with vowels to make short words which might make sense or they might be made up words. So you might have a target sound at the beginning of a consonant-vowel combination like "key" "koo" "kie" or you might have it at the end so it's a vowel-consonant combination like "Eek" "ook" "ayk." You take your child through these very tiny stages before you can expect them to start using that sound in words or everyday conversation.

Week 5

The children now start to use their target sounds within words, for example saying "coffee" or "toffee" "key" or "tea."  I do make sure that I have both sounds so that the child just doesn't start saying "kiger" for tiger and "key" for tea. They've got to understand that sometimes they use one sound and sometimes they use another sound,

Week 6

The last session is starting to put those target words into a sentence, for example, "I like coffee."

Once they can start to use the words in short sentences, then it's just a matter of time before they start to use their new sound in everyday conversation. Don't forget to share this blog with anyone who may have unclear children in their setting or at home. As I said, it's completely free and perfect for getting children ready for starting school in the new academic year. You can sign up here and you can join the Facebook group specifically for those doing the challenge - it's obviously quiet at the moment because I've just launched the challenge, but there are files, pictures and suggestions there as well as a forum for you to ask any questions! See you there.