How to Teach the TH Sound

TH Sound

Learning the TH Sound All By Itself

I love teaching the TH sound because it is one of the most visual sounds to teach. Model putting your tongue between your teeth while blowing air at the same time. Most children will have no difficulty imitating this action. Then practice this action with and with out voice. Think of it as a loud th and a quiet th. The reason for this is the TH is pronounced with voice in some words like, “that, this and the” and without voice in other words like, “thank you, theater and thongs.”

Practice the TH Sound in Syllables

Once you have had multiple successful productions of the TH sound all by itself try adding a long or short vowel to the TH sound. For example, “they, the, though, tha, thee, thy…” Then try putting the vowel in front of the the sound, for example, “ath, eth, eeth, ith, uth, oath…” Finally try putting the Th sound in the middle of vowels, for example, “atho, ethee, ootha, othu…” Which ever syllable combination your child is the most successful with will tell you whether you want to begin practice with words that begin with TH, end with Th or have Th occurring in the middle.

Practice the TH Sound in Words

If your child did did the best with TH following the vowel you would begin practicing words that end in TH like, “booth, bath, path, north, moth, mouth…” I prefer to practice with a list of at least 20 words. I like to use pictures to make it more fun. Fun ways to use the pictures include making a snake with the pictures with little treats every 3-4 cards, have the child say the name of the picture, if it is correct put it away, if he/she misses the word put it in a pile to practice later. When you have gone through all the words have your child say the ones they missed 5 times correctly before putting them away. You can also play games like memory, go fish, and bingo to keep it fun. You can download the pictures I have created for words beginning with TH as well as words that have TH in the middle and at the end of the word on the worksheets page. Once your child is able to say these words with 80% accuracy or better, try putting them into a sentence.

Practice the TH Sound in Sentences

I use one sentence and have the child insert all their practice words into that sentence. For example the sentence might be, “They both have a ________.” In the blank you would fill in “They both have a bath, They both have a mouth, They both have a north.” Some sentences will make sense and others will not. You can use this as an opportunity to discuss how to make the sentence correct. If you are practicing the TH in the beginning of words you might use the sentence “That is the _______.” If you are practicing the TH in the middle of words you could use the sentence, “My brother wants a ________.” Feel free to make up your own sentences as well.

Praqctice the TH Sound in Stories

Following successful sentence productions have your child practice the TH sound while retelling simple stories or while reading aloud depending on the ability level of the child. Be sure to follow this outline until you have achieved mastery of the Th sound in all positions of words (beginning, middle and end of words).

Practice the TH Sound in Conversation

Once your child is able to retell stories with good TH production you will find moving the TH into conversation will go pretty smoothly. You may still have to remind your child from time to time but more often you will be pleased to watch them catch themselves and make the correction on their. Before you know it, you’ll forget they ever had a problem with TH. Good luck!


Heidi - Mommy Speech Therapy Heidi Hanks, M.S.CCC-SLP has been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2000. She graduated from Utah State University where she completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She began her career in early intervention and eventually started her own private practice where she has worked primarily with pre-K through school age kids. She is the founder of Little Bee Speech, and is currently developing apps for speech and language. Heidi lives in Utah with her husband and 4 children.


42 Responses to “How to Teach the TH Sound”

  1. Laurie says:

    Heidi-
    I was glad to find this website, I am priting the exercises above on TH as that is one of the sounds my son struggles with. He is six years old and was a late talker. We were soncerned about his speech back when he was four, but then felt he had grown out fo the struggles. At his last teacher conference his teacher brought up concern that she couldn’t always understand him so now we arer ealizing he hasn’t gotten better but we have gotten better at understanding him. He struggles with TH and also with the L sound and mainly the R sound. Any exercises or suggestion for him? He also stutters if he gets excited and tries to talk too fast. I feel we have a lot to work on, any suggestions? Thanks so much!

    Laurie

  2. Heidi says:

    Hi Laurie,

    I just wrote a post on teaching the /l/ sound. I hope it will help you. For now I would probably ask your son’s speech therapist what you can do to help him with the /r/. He or she will be able to tell you which /r/ sound your son struggles with, which will allow them to give you more specific advice.

    Good Luck,
    Heidi

  3. Linda says:

    Hello…
    I am so excited to try your suggestions.
    I have been trying to work with my oldest daughter who is 5 on the “TH” sound. Instead of saying a TH, she uses F or D if its at the begining but if it is in the middle of the word she sometimes just skips it all together. While she is concentrating she does better but once our exercises are over… she slips back. Is that normal..? Any other suggestions?

    Thanks a bunch…

  4. Heidi says:

    Linda,

    It’s perfectly normal that your daughter does well with the exercises but then still struggles when the exercises are over. Just keep practicing, and remember to follow the progression of practicing words, then sentences, then stories, and finally while reading aloud. This will make it a lot easier for her to move the sounds into conversation. Remember to be patient, it takes practice to change old habits!

    Heidi

  5. Alison says:

    I am pleased to find your suggestions for helping children use the “th” sound properly. My son is almost 10 and still uses an ‘f’ sound for “th” words, but oddly enough not for ‘s’ or ‘z’ sounds. He pronounces words like “these” “although” and “this” correctly, but not “with” “three” or “thick” and other similar words. I have thought all along that he would eventually outgrow this, but I realize now that this may take some work. Can you offer me some encouragement that it’s not too late for my son to change his habits of speech? I’m also curious about why he would still be speaking this way when the rest of us in the family all speak clearly and correctly. Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. Heidi says:

    Alison,

    Giving your son a little training and a lot of encouragement should help him correct this speech error with out much trouble.

    The reason he is saying words like “these,” “although,” and “this” correctly and not words like “with,” “three,” or “thick” is because they are actually produced differently. For example the TH sound in “these,” “although,” and “this” are produced in the same place as the TH sound in “with,” “three,” and “thick” but they use voice and the Th sounds in “with,” “three,” and “thick” do not use voice. It is a common error to substitute the “voicless” TH with the /f/ sound because the /f/ sound also does not use the voice.

    Try following my recommendations on teaching the TH sound using the TH pictures from the downloads page. I am sure with a little practice your son should get it. If you have speech therapy available to you and doing it on your own is frustrating I am confident this is an error that shouldn’t take more than a few months to fix in therapy.

    Best of luck,
    Heidi

  7. Stephanie says:

    Heidi,
    Thank you so much for your helpful blog. My 3 year old daughter and I are working through the TH sound daily. My question is this: when she is attempting to say a word with TH in the middle or end, she’s trying to leave her tongue out for the whole word so that she will “catch” the TH at the right time. This makes her lisp her S, along with other silly things. Should I not worry about this?

  8. Heidi says:

    Stephanie,

    It sounds like your 3 year old is doing just fine. The errors she’s making are pretty typical for her age. Continue to model correct productions of TH words and don’t worry so much about if she is completely accurate at imitating you right now. She is pretty young still and has a lot of time to work things out. The fact that she is trying is pretty great!

  9. Sue says:

    Heidi, It was great to find your website, and some good ideas to try. My son is four years old, and always says “f” instead of “th”. I’ve encouraged him to stick out his tongue to make the “th” sound, which he can manage (reluctantly) when I ask him to. He’s never yet spontaneously made the “th” sound in conversation though. Is he too young to start with your step-wise suggestions? I just don’t want the “f” habit to become very ingrained.

  10. Heidi says:

    Sue,

    I would definately try the exercises with your son. I have had a lot of success teaching the TH sound to young kids. On the other hand if it is really difficult for your son, or he is not interested just yet, give it a break and try again a few months down the road.

    Heidi :)

  11. rosanne says:

    would there be anything else for ‘thr’ …. like the word three

  12. Sari says:

    THANK YOU for the Boardmaker Sound picture cards!! I am a grad student, working in the speech clinic, & they saved me a whooole lot of time.

  13. Heidi says:

    Rosanne,

    Practice -thr- words just like you practice the initial -th- words. If you are having difficulty with the word “three” break it up. First have your child say the -th- sound and then “ree”. Have them practice this sound 5 times in a row. Do this a couple of times a day and I promise you they will get it.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Heidi

  14. Lynda says:

    Heidi,
    Your website was the answer to a prayer. I homeschool a 3rd grade child with capd, and take care of granny with alzheimers.
    I have a 3 year old with speech issues and getting to speech therapy twice a week was not an option. We just needed some where to start. Thank you for what you do.

    Lynda

  15. Hillary Welch Kleck says:

    This is an encouraging start. My daughter is 5 years old and blind, so it makes it so much harder since I can’t show her how to shape her mouth and tongue without physically doing it for her. Do you have any tips for blind/visually impaired children? Thanks!

  16. mrs gaylene surra says:

    dear heidi hi how are you i am new to your speech work i have a eight year old son danile ho has an speech difficultys in sum words and sounds i have taken him to speech therpey hes teacher is haveing trumble under standing him i do work with him a lot do you think i should take him back to speech therpey all just keep on working with him thank you

  17. Heidi says:

    Mrs. Gaylene,

    I would recommend you continue with speech therapy. Ask your sons speech therapist what you can do at home to support his progress. I think it is great you are willing to work with him at home. After all, the more help he gets the more likely he will be to improve his speech. Best wishes.

  18. Heidi says:

    Hillary,

    I have never worked with blind or visually impaired children. My inclination would be to first model a sound for her, then let her feel my mouth, cheeks, tongue and teeth if necessary. I would also encourage her to feel my throat so she can feel the difference between voiced and voiceless sounds like/b/ and /p/ for example. I would put her finger on my nose when I make nasal sounds like /m/ and /n/ so she could feel how the sound resonates in my nose. I would put her hand in front of my mouth to feel how the air escapes on sounds like /s/ and th. Then I would encourage her to try to make the sound in imitation of me. If she needed some guidance placing her tongue or lips I would assist her where I could.

    I use these same strategies all the time with children who are not visually impaired and those tactile cues really seem to make a difference. I believe they will work with your daughter as well. Just have faith and keep on trying. You can do it and so can she.

  19. Melanie says:

    Thank you! I knew my 3 year old had difficulty pronouncing some words, so I took him for a speech evaluation. I was told he was within “normal” range, so he didn’t qualify for any services. Still, I felt like I could be helping him progress rather then waiting and hoping for the problem to resolve itself — your website has been a huge help! He couldn’t make the “th” sound, but with the word cards we’ve been using, now he can! I’ve noticed he has trouble with “r” when it follows a vowel. I’m hopeful you will be writing a post with suggestions for teaching r. I read some of the information you posted about the difficulty with teaching r, so any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated! Thanks again, very much!

  20. mrs gaylene surra says:

    thank you heidi i will do that i hope i hear from you again thank you gaylene from austrlia bye your work sheets are a great help

  21. mrs gaylene surra says:

    dear heidi hi it gaylene from austraia i just wondering if you have your on speech book out thank you bye gaylene wont you can buy sorry

  22. Heidi says:

    Gaylene,

    I appreciate your interest. I do not have a speech book out. I am currently working on something but I am afraid it won’t be done for awhile still. Hopefully sometime next year.

  23. therese rogan says:

    Hi Heidi. Thanks so much for this helpful website. I am wondering about my 3 year old son. He can’t make the th sound and usually just leaves it out. (instead of thing he says ing) Sometimes he substitutes a /f/ sound and other times /h/. I googled it and read that you wouldn’t expect the correct pronunciation of this sound until 8 years old and the voiceless /th/ at 8 years 6 months. Is that correct?

  24. Heidi says:

    The studies show that 90% of all children can produce the TH sound correctly by the age of 8. That doesn’t mean I wait until they are eight years old to work on it. In fact I have found that with a little direction the TH sound is a relatively easy sound to teach. Start small however. Just play with the sound in isolation first. Have your three year old imitate you making the TH sound all by itself. Practice making the “loud” TH, the TH with your voice on, and the “quiet” TH, the TH with your voice off. Turn it into a fun game. Take turns making the sound until he says it correctly. Then print out some of the TH worksheets I have provided and practice the word cards, then sentences, and finally stories. Remember if you make it fun he won’t even know he is working. You will see him gradually work the correct production of the TH into conversation. Then give yourself a pat on the back because you could have waited until he was 8 to do something but by being proactive your son will be a lot easier to understand and he will be so much more confident about his speech.

  25. Allyson says:

    My daughter is almost 5 and still says “f” sound for “th”. Should i be worried? At what age is it developmentally inappropriate? When should I contact a speech pathologist?

  26. Heidi says:

    Allyson,

    You still have a few years before you should be concerned. However, you can do a lot to help her overcome this habit before it becomes a concern. Follow the steps I have outlined in this post and I am sure you will have success in teaching her how to say the TH sound. You will feel great that you were able to help her and she will be so much more confident about her speech. Best of luck!

  27. hpMalik says:

    your great …….. this website is very useful specially for TH

  28. Alex says:

    Hi Heidi,

    As embarrassing as this is, i’m a 29 year successful business man who still cannot say his TH’s with it sounding like “fffffff”.

    are these exercises effective for an adult as well or are there other techniques?

  29. Heidi says:

    Absolutely! It’s all about practice. Follow the steps I outlined above and practice, practice, practice! If you do it, you will be successful! Keep me updated. I’d love to hear how it goes.

  30. Toni says:

    I acutally used these tips for my girlfriend. She is trying out for an acting gig and she is French Canadian. She really has to work on her “TH” sounds and these tips have come in incredibly handy.

  31. Kori says:

    My 5 year old is having trouble with the TH sound… we are struggeling for him to even get the loud and quiet th sound out all by itself. What excercises can we do with him to even get that going?

  32. Heidi says:

    Hi Kori,

    Spend some time encouraging him to really stick his tongue out, then bite gently and blow the air out over his tongue. Have him hold his hand up to feel the air flow out. Once he has the quiet th sound down have him try saying a loud th. With some practice he’ll get it. Once he gets it I would recommend you start practicing the sound in the initial position of words. I have th word cards you can practice on my worksheets page. Good luck! I’d love to hear how it goes.

  33. Ruben says:

    hi, thanks for your website, english is not my primary language so i have lots of problems with the TH sound. It is very embarrasing trying to get it right and repeat the word again and again. your exercises are real easy and i will master that sound in not time…. how come no one told me you kind of put the tongue between the teeth and blow air … that did it for me, thanks alot….

  34. Heidi says:

    That’s awesome Ruben! I’m glad to hear it is working for you. :)

  35. Kelly says:

    Hi. My daughter just turned 4 and I’m struggling with getting her to use “S” instead of “TH.” Do you have any advice or resources that would help with that? I was hoping to have her do it correctly before she enters Kindergarten.

  36. Heidi says:

    Hi Kelly,

    Check out my post, “My Child Has a Lisp, Should I be Concerned?” It gives lots of tips on how to teach the /s/ sound to a child that has been substituting it with the th sound. I also have quick tips in my S program in “Articulation Station” on the app store for iPad’s. But to get you started you can pretend with your daughter that her tongue is a snake and her teeth are the cage. Tell her she can’t let the snake out of the cage. When she closes her teeth tightly tell her to make the snake hiss. Tell her the snake is hissing because he is angry he can’t get out of the cage. Have fun with this and good luck!

    Best,
    Heidi

  37. Anna says:

    Are there any tips for getting him to do the TH sound without spitting? LOL. Seriously, when I try and get him to imitate me with my tongue between my teeth he makes a Daffy Duck-esque noise and he spittles. He’s really struggling with that. He did have some issues with the “L” sound and for a long time he’d say, “Aunt Worra!” when his Aunt Laura came by, but he seems to have grown out of that. The TH sound, however, continues to be a struggle. He wants to say “bafroom” and “birfday” and things like that. He can almost make the TH sound but I get a shower every time I try to show him. LOL.

  38. Heidi says:

    Anna,

    LOL. If you only knew how many times I get spit on. It’s part of the joys of teaching kids how to speak clearly. ;). Every kids manages to put their own spin on things so as speech pathologists we have to be creative. I have an idea for you. Instead of directing him to put his tongue between his teeth and blow have him make the /h/ sound. Then have him hang his tongue out while making the /h/ sound like a panting puppy. Then have him close his jaw slightly so his teeth are barely touching the tongue. Then have him breathe out slowly. This is essentially the same thing you have been doing but presented in a different way. Sometimes just presenting the same idea in a different way will sometimes help kids grasp a concept that seemed difficult just moments before. Let us know how it goes.

    Best,
    Heidi

  39. Jennifer says:

    I’ve noticed that my 6 year old son, who is currently in grade 1, has been having trouble with the TH sound, and now it is having an effect on his ability to spell words with TH in them correctly. Any tips on how to work on this?

  40. Heidi says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I would recommend you follow the steps I have outlined above to start teaching him how to say the TH sound at home. While developmentally he is not delayed and may still acquire the correct production of the TH sound on his own, the TH sound is a relatively easy sound to teach and the sooner he can learn to say it correctly the easier time he will have learning to spell words with TH in them. You may use the free worksheets I have created for practicing the TH sound on my worksheets page or if he likes the iPad or iPhone you may be interested in the TH program on the “Articulation Station” app on the iTunes store. The nice thing about Articulation Station is that he can record himself and then play back his recording to hear for himself how he is saying the sound. There are also a lot more fun activities for practicing the sound.

    I hope this helps!
    Heidi

  41. Debra says:

    I just found your page when I realized that my daughter is having a rough time reading because she says words incorrectly, therefor words like ‘the’ aren’t spelled correctly in her mind, as they way she says it is ‘da’.

    So I tried the first step above, and she had a hard time keeping her tongue up on the top upper teeth. She’d either resort to ‘da’ or ‘fffff’. What words would you use to describe how she should physically use her tongue?

  42. April says:

    Hi Debra,
    When practicing with your daughter, I would suggest that you try practicing in front of a mirror. Because /th/ is such a visible speech production, it might help your daughter to have that visible cue. I would start by saying: “I’m going to show you how to make a sound today. That sound is the “th” sound. To make this sound I’m going to take the tip of my tongue (you could point to the tip of your tongue) and stick it right between my teeth like this (model this for your daughter). Then I’m going to push air out around my tongue, like this (model this as well).” It may take some time for your daughter to get this sound correctly. She is basically replacing an old habit, or the old way that she has been saying the /th/ sound. Replacing the old way with the correct new way may take practice and time. Try practicing with your daughter a little bit everyday and follow the course outlined in the post above (starting with the sound in isolation, syllables, words, etc). Best of luck!