Children usually do not develop speech skills at a uniform pace. As children learn speech sounds, they master these sounds at different rates. For example, the articulation of the sounds: L, R, S, Th, and Z sounds are often particularly challenging for most children.
Especially for a child with speech difficulty, the /z/ sound proves to be particularly challenging. A child may drop the /z/ sound altogether or might produce it with a lisp.
We're going to cover some important details about this critical sound and provide some tips to practice. Let’s get started!
The /z/ phoneme is normally spelled with the letter ‘z’. E.g. in the words:
but can also be spelt with the letters ‘se’, ‘x’ or ‘s’ E.g. in the words:
By the age of 4-5 years the child is able to say the /zh/ sound and around 7-8 years /z/ sound in words. Their speech might be unclear to adults who don’t know the child well. Fluency and clarity of the production of sound /z/ is achieved easily over time in most children.
The /z/ is a continuous consonant, meaning that it is produced for a few seconds with even and smooth pronunciation for the entire duration.
The /z/ sound is formed the same way as the sound /s/ i.e. by forcing air between the tongue and the roof of the mouth and out past the teeth. However the /z/ sound is voiced (the vocal cords vibrate during its production) whereas the /s/ is unvoiced.
To create the /z/ sound, place your tongue close to the tooth ridge. The tip of the tongue should be close to the upper backside of the top front teeth. The front sides of the tongue should touch the side teeth toward the front of the mouth.
The lips are held slightly tense during the sound as the air is pushed between a small groove along the center of the tip of the tongue. Generally, it is best to have your child watch you or an SLP make the sound, then try to copy in the mirror.
If you think you need more practice you can use the Valeo Learning library to practice the /z/ sound at home.
Point out words with /z/ sound in everyday speech. Try to use these words routinely in your daily conversations. Make it into a game and see who can identify as many /z/ sound words in all the conversations during the day.
Another game that you can play with your child at home is the correct vs. incorrect pronunciation. Say the /z/ sound for your child correctly and incorrectly in different words and then have them identify and spot the difference in the correct and incorrect version.
While practicing speech sounds keep the activities fun and engaging. Incorporate speech sound practice into activities that your child already loves. For instance if they love playing outside, find a way to work speech sound practice into outdoor games e.g. have your child practice a few sound productions in between each of their turns while playing catch.
You can practice speech sounds with flashcards. Flashcard decks in our learning library include specific words for each of the difficult speech sounds. A child’s speech sound production might improve a lot by saying these words out loud.
Sorting activities might also encourage speech-language learning skills. These activities help with language learning skills as they mimic the way that our brains naturally learn and store new vocabulary. With games such as the objects sorting game children might learn speech sounds in a fun and engaging way.