The /d/ sound is made in almost the same way as the /t/ sound is made. Place the tip of your tongue on the little ridge on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth, then release the tounge, allowing air to rush through your mouth. The air is temporarily stopped by your tongue in this position, which means both /d/ and /t/ are considered stop sounds. The only difference between them is that /d/ is a voiced sound and /t/ is a voiceless sound. That means that when you produce /d/, your vocal cords vibrate and the sound you make comes from this vibration combined with the movement of air through your mouth.
Children usually begin saying the /d/ sound around two years of age. By four years old, children should be able to easily use the sound in their words and conversation. If a child still struggles with the /d/ sound past four years old, it is recommended that they receive the help of a licensed speech therapist. It is important to ensure correct articulation early on so that a small setback doesn’t turn into a larger communication issue as your child learns other sounds and words.
Helping your child with their articulation skills at home is a great way to stimulate your child’s learning and to keep track of their progress and milestones. Here are some simple speech therapist-recommended techniques that focus on helping your child master the /d/ sound:
- Verbal cues
Clearly and slowly produce the /d/ sound for your child so that she understands what specific sound you are focusing on and has a good example to imitate. Exaggerate both the sound and the movement of your mouth as you say, “/d/, /d/, /d/.” Encourage your child to repeat it back to you. After lots of practice, your little one will begin to master the /d/ sound in isolation. Once she has it down, repeat the process with simple syllables like “da, da, da,” “do, do do,” and “de, de, de.” With time and practice, she will be able to move on to words, phrases and sentences using the /d/ sound.
- Visual Cues
Use a hand gesture to help your child visualize the characteristic “stop” of the /d/ sound. The sound occurs when the tongue taps the roof of the mouth to stop the air, then quickly releases. Place your thumb and your pointer finger near your mouth as though poised to pinch something. Every time you make the sound, tap the tips of your fingers together at the same time as your tongue hits the roof of your mouth. Have your little one do the same when they say the /d/ sound to remind them to bring their tongue to the right spot.
- Tactile Cues
Oftentimes with the /d/ sound, children have trouble locating the correct placement for their tongue, or simply lack the tounge muscle development to reach the correct spot. In this situation, a favorite technique of speech therapists is to put a small amount of peanut butter, cream cheese, or some other tasty substance on the roof of the child’s mouth just behind their front teeth. Encourage your little one to lick the spot with the tip of her tongue. This trains his tongue where to go to make the sound. To help strengthen the muscles in his tongue, place a cheerio in the same spot behind the front teeth and ask him to hold it there with his tongue for five seconds. With these fun activities, your kiddo gets to eat the peanut butter and the cheerio and his tongue gets a good workout at the same time!
- Awesome /d/ Activity
The ‘D’ Dance is an energetic, interactive activity that helps practice the /d/ sound while working on your dance moves. Dance around with your little one and sing the chorus “Do the “d” dance! Do the “d” dance!” to whatever tune you please. Dance around looking for “d” objects, like a dog, drum, or door. When you find one, sing “Do the dog dance! Do the dog dance!” Kids love this because most of the words end up making silly dances. Have fun finding (or making up!) d-words to dance to with your little one!