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How to Teach the CH Sounds in Speech Therapy

Most children learn to articulate the /ch/ sound before they reach the age of four, but it’s still normal for them to continue its development through the age of seven. However, if a child is older than seven and is still having challenges pronouncing the /ch/ sound, it’s highly advised to start looking for advice from licensed speech therapists to teach /ch/ sounds. Detecting and addressing this issue sooner will give a better chance of fixing and preventing it from getting worse, making it easy for the child and parents alike.

A child having trouble pronouncing the /ch/ sound is most likely substituting it for another sound. This frequently occurs in young children who are in the process of learning the complete range of speech sounds. The /t/ sound is the most common substitution for the /ch/ sound – the child may pronounce ‘cheese’ as ‘tees.’

You may ask, why is this kind of substituting happens? Here’s the reason why:

The /ch/ sound is a combination of the /t/ and the /sh/ sound. It is produced by positioning the tongue tip behind the upper front teeth while forcing air over the tongue, while also puckering the lips as their corners are drawn together. This is a voiceless affricate consonant – vocal cords do not vibrate when you pronounce the /ch/ sound. The sound it produces travel through the air that comes from the mouth, then is haltered by the tip of the tongue that touches the roof of the mouth behind the teeth before it’s released from the mouth. This process can be a bit challenging for children, hence why substituting happens.

When it comes to teaching and learning the /ch/ sound, a one size fits all approach isn’t going to cut it because each child learn their sounds differently. Don’t worry though, to make it less challenging for parents and speech therapists, we have outlined several ideas that can be used to help children develop the production of the /ch/ sound correctly using Speech Therapy.

How to Teach /ch/ Sounds to Children

Mastering the /ch/ sound is a significant milestone in a child’s speech development. As a speech therapist, parent, or educator, it’s important to bring engaging and effective strategies to facilitate the learning process. Whether you’re dealing with early learners or older children who need a bit more guidance, the following techniques will help you explore practical and fun methods to teach the /ch/ sound in children:

Begin with the sounds or speech elements the child is already capable of doing

More often than not, children find it easy to articulate the ‘t’ sound. This skill provides a solid foundation for advancing their speech abilities. Here’s a strategy you can apply in teaching /ch/ sounds:

  • Have the child pronounce the ‘t’ sound as they normally do.
  • Instruct them to repeat the sound, but with their lips rounded. Observe as the sound starts to evolve. You may want to look in a mirror together to help the child understand what lip rounding looks and feels like.
  • Then, encourage them to alter the sound – either elongating it, intensifying it, or speeding it up, depending on how it sounds with their lips rounded.

This technique builds upon their existing capabilities, gently guiding them towards mastering more complex sound variations.

Practice the /tr/ sound

In cases where older children become frustrated or find the ‘ch’ sound too difficult, you can employ a strategic shift in focus. Let the child know that they’ll pause working on the /ch/ sound and start learning a new one. This method can effectively reduce stress and make the learning process more engaging, often leading to improved success in indirectly mastering the /ch/ sound.

Set aside the /ch/ sound and focus on words beginning with /tr/ such as “tree,” “trampoline,” “treasure,” and “train.”

Additionally, this target is ideal if the child is working on their /r/ sound. Concentrating on /tr/ words can lead to the child naturally picking up ‘sh’, ‘ch’, and ‘r’ sounds as part of their learning journey.

Guide the child where to put their tongue

Teaching the CH sound can also involve guiding the child on proper tongue placement. Instruct them to position the tip of their tongue against the roof of their mouth, right at the bumpy ridge before it slopes down towards the throat. If locating this spot is challenging, consider using a toothbrush for gentle stimulation, or place a small amount of a soft spread of their choice (like Nutella!) there for them to touch with their tongue. Once they understand where to place their tongue, the next step is to teach them air release. Have them hold their tongue firmly in that position and then prompt them to release the air swiftly.

Work on the /ch/ sound in isolation while incorporating visual and tactile cues

Many children are familiar with the /ch/ sound as the “choo choo” sound from trains. To reinforce this, mimic the motion of a train conductor by moving your arm up and down with your hand in a fist while they articulate the sound. Encourage the child to do the same as they pronounce it.

Another engaging way to help them remember the sound is by simulating a sneeze. The exaggerated “aahh-CHOO” can be effective in teaching the /ch/ sound. Demonstrating the sneeze into a tissue or your elbow can also serve as a practical lesson in hygiene, showing your child how to minimize the spread of germs.

Work on the /ch/ sound within syllables

Once it’s established that a child can articulate the CH sound in isolation, the next step is to incorporate it into syllables. This approach in progress is much more manageable because it can be difficult to jump from a single sound to entire words. Doing it in syllables will be much more easier for the child.

For instance, moving from the isolated CH sound to the syllable “choo” is simpler than going directly to a word like “chimpanzee”. Another advantage of syllable practice is that it helps identify which word position (initial, medial, or final) the child is most successful with the /ch/ sound.

To practice in syllables, you should add a vowel after the /ch/ sound for the initial position, before it for the final position, and both before and after for the medial position. It’s important to include both the long and short forms of each vowel.

For instance, initial /ch/ syllables include “cha, che, chi, cho, and chu,” while final /ch/ syllables are “ach, ech, ich, och, and uch,” and medial /ch/ syllables might be “acho, echi, icha, ochu, and uchee.”

Once it’s determined where the child most comfortably produces the /ch/ sound in syllables, focus on practicing the /ch/ sound in that same position within words.

For instance, if a child excels with the /ch/ sound at the start of syllables, start working on words where the /ch/ sound is in the initial position. Alternatively, if they show more proficiency with the /ch/ sound at the end of syllables, then begin with words where the /ch/ sound is in the final position. Starting from their area of strength and building from there can accelerate the child’s progress in mastering the /ch/ sound.

Work on incorporating the /ch/ sound into words

After your child successfully articulates the CH sound in syllables and you’ve determined the target position (initial, medial, or final), they are prepared to practice the CH sound in words. You can look at this table for reference:

Beginning Middle Ending
chair beach ball beach
chat catcher couch
chase crutches bench
check grandchild stretch
cheese hatching pitch
cheer inches catch
chest ketchup patch
child key chain reach
chick matches march
chin lunchbox touch
cheetah marching speech
checkers touchdown wrench
cherry itching watch
chicken peaches witch
children picture lunch
cheeseburger pitcher stretch
chili teacher match
chocolate statue branch
chop witches ostrich
chapter reaching switch
chalk furniture hatch
cheap high chair ranch
chipmunk temperature coach
choose bleachers
chore

When the child can correctly pronounce at least 16 words, they’re ready to progress to using the sound in sentences and you’re a step further on succeeding on mastering how to teach /ch/ sound.

Work on using the /ch/ sound within sentences

When the child can accurately pronounce words with the CH sound, the next step is to practice incorporating them into sentences. This exercise aids in their ability to use the sound correctly during conversations and gets them accustomed to producing the sound within a sentence’s structure. You can look at the below table for sentences that can be used for exercises in practicing the /ch/ sound within sentences:

Matthew sat down on the chair. The man’s chest was muscular. He is touching her chin.
Will you get me a new piece of chalk? The dog played with his chew toy. The chipmunk rested on a log.
I think the dog will chase the cat. The chicken was by the coop. Will you share your chocolate?
Gracie put a check in the box. She is a sweet child. Their job is to chop down trees.
They did a cheer at the pep rally. Are you coming to the chili cook off? What time is church on Sunday?
Melt the cheese and we can dip chips in it. A cheetah can run as fast as a car. I would like a milkshake with a cherry on top.

Bonus: Group Activity on how to teach /ch/ sounds

If you have a group of children you are working with, gather them all and start a lively Cha Cha Choo Choo activity! Transform the room into a dance floor and form a conga line. Alternate between becoming a human choo-choo train and a cha-cha dancing group. This activity will not only keep everyone active, but will also provide enjoyable opportunity for the child to practice the /ch/ sound. Evidence shows that when children are engaged in multi-modal activities with sensory input and having fun, they learn faster! You can use these songs from Lalafun Nursery Rhymes and Pororo the Little Penguin.

Conclusion on how to teach /ch/ sounds in Speech Therapy

These steps on how to teach /ch/ sounds in speech therapy require combining engaging and targeted activities to capture all aspects of learning in children. In doing so, parents and speech therapists can mold a comprehensive and effective plan for teaching the /ch/ sound. Apart from these tips, consistent practice, positive reinforcement, and a supportive environment can positively contribute to the success and integration of this essential speech sound.

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SLP Team
Author: SLP Team

Our Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) team is a dedicated group of professionals committed to sharing industry expertise to help you grow your practice and improve how you treat your patients.

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