In order to make the /f/ sound, all that is required is to rest your front teeth lightly on your bottom lip and blow. The /f/ sound is a voiceless sound, so you are simply passing air through your mouth. You do not need to vibrate your vocal cords at all.
Children usually master this sound by age four, so if your little one is still substituting the /p/ sound for the /f/ sound at three and a half, you are ok. However, if your child is older than four and still has trouble producing the /f/ sound correctly or incorporating it into words, it is highly recommended that you seek the intervention of a licensed speech therapist. A trained children’s speech-language pathologist will be able to help get your child back on track and communicating effectively.
Get a head start in helping your child practice his articulation by using tried-and-true techniques recommended by children’s speech therapists. These activities help you stimulate your child’s learning and provide you with a way to measure their progress and speech milestones. Here are a few great ways to engage your child in mastering the /f/ sound:
- Verbal cues
When you work with the /f/ sound with your toddler, begin by saying the sound clearly and slowly so that she knows what you are focusing on and has a good example to imitate: “/f/, /f/, /f/.” Exaggerate the sound and the movement of your mouth as you pronounce the sound, and encourage your little one to imitate you. Once she is able to say the sound correctly and repeatedly, move on to using the sound in simple syllables. This is easily done by adding vowels to the /f/ sound, such as “fa, fa, fa,” “fo, fo, fo,” and “fe, fe, fe.” With practice, she will be abel to repeat these as well. Gradually move on to small words, phrases and sentences until she is seamlessly using the sound in conversation.
- Visual Cues
The /f/ sound is a very visual sound and can easily be taught by pointing out how the mouth moves while the sound is made. Use a mirror with your child to help him see where he places his teeth to make the sound. Pronounce it yourself a few times in the mirror, pointing to where your teeth are resting on your lips. Encourage him to do the same thing with his mouth in the mirror. The mirror will give him visual feed back to make sure the position of his mouth matches yours.
- Tactile Cues
When the /f/ sound is produced correctly, a small puff of air is released from the mouth. Hold your child’s hand in front of your mouth as you make the sound to let him feel the warm breath. Then, when he makes the sound, have him hold his hand in front of his own mouth. Can he feel the little breath of air? If he can, he will know he is pronouncing the sound correctly.
Awesome /f/ Activity
Help your child practice the /f/ sound by incorporating it into other fun activities, such as coloring. Have your child color pictures of fishes, fruit and farms. While your child is coloring, use the opportunity to talk about the objects and use the /f/ sound as much as possible. Get creative! Fish can find fun at a far away reef, for example.