Like the /m/ sound, the /n/ sound is a voiced, nasal sound. This means that the sound is created by the speaker vibrating their vocal cords while pushing air through their nose, or nasal cavity. The /n/ sound is distinguished from the /m/ sound by the placement of the speaker’s tongue. To make the /n/ sound, place the tip of your tongue just behind your teeth as you lower your jaw a bit, leaving a small gap between your teeth. In this position, your mouth is all set to start producing /n/’s!
While this isn’t the first sound your child will begin to make, it is a crucial early sound for your little one’s speech development. Typically, toddlers will begin using the sound at around 2 years old and should master it by age 3. If, however, you notice that your child still has trouble achieving the /n/ sound by age 4, it is highly recommended that you contact a licensed children’s speech-language pathologist as soon as possible to help your child develop their articulation skills. The earlier you seek intervention, the easier it will be to correct and the less likely that it will negatively affect your child’s continuing articulation abilities.
But how do you know if your child is behind on a single sound? In what ways can you, as a parent, help your child master this sound? Even on-track children benefit greatly from many simple exercises that parents can do with their children to reinforce the correct articulation of the letter /n/. Here are some beginner tips for practicing with your toddler:
- Verbal cues
When practicing a single sound, it is important to demonstrate the correct articulation of just the letter so that your child understands the sound and has an example to imitate. Try saying “/n/, /n/, /n/” slowly and distinctly for your little one. Exaggerate the sound so that it is loud, crisp and clear. Once your child can effectively imitate the isolated sound, try incorporating vowels such as “nu, nu, nu” and “un, un, un”.
- Visual Cues
Since the /n/ sound depends on specific tongue placement, it is important to show your child where to put her tongue in her mouth. Use your own exaggerated movements to show her where your tongue is, and let her use a mirror to see where she puts her own tongue. As a playful way to draw attention to your tongue, stick out your tongue and wiggle it a few times before settling it just behind your teeth. Encourage your child to do the same just before making the /n/ sound.
- Tactile Cues
When we make a voiced sound like /n/, our vocal cords vibrate together and we can feel this vibration in our throats. Put your hand on your throat when you make the /n/ sound and have your little one do the same. Can you feel the vibration? Have him put his hand on his own throat to feel his own vocal cords as he makes the sound. If your child is having trouble locating the precise spot to put his tongue, put a little dab of peanut butter just behind his teeth and ask him to lick it. This will get his tongue in the habit of reaching for that perfect spot.
For extra practice: Once your child has mastered the individual sound and the /n/ sound combined with vowels, try practicing /n/ words from this fun and colorful worksheet created by the speech-language pathologists at www.speech-language-therapy.com!
If you notice that your 4 year old child struggles with these activities, you should seek the help of a speech therapist. Otherwise, enjoy helping your child develop his or her articulation skills!
- Awesome /n/ Activity
You might consider sitting in front of a mirror with your child and producing the /n/ sound together so that he can tell whether or not he is making correct oral movements. Visual comparison can be very stimulating and valuable for children of a young age.