Tongue twisters are one of the few types of spoken wordplay that are fun to recite and are a great tool to aid children’s language development.
Attempting to recite a tricky rhyme or tongue twister as fast as possible without tripping over your tongue is a great challenge – try saying “She sells sea shells” or “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and you can’t help but smile and enjoy the race to get it right.
Tongue twisters usually rely on alliteration – the repetition of a sound starting with a similar letter - with a phrase designed such that it is made very easy to slip (hence the fun).
Tongue twisters are not only a linguistic fun and game but serve a practical purpose for language and speech development. For example, tongue twisters may be used by foreign students of English to improve their accent and speech pathologists often use them as a tool to help those with speech difficulties.
Tips to use tongue twisters for developing speech
- Start reciting the tongue twisters at a slow pace and ensure it is able to be recited clearly
- The next step would be to know the tongue twister by heart.
- Repeat the tongue twister as fast as possible until it is mastered and able to be recited three times in a row without stumbling.
- When one tongue twister is mastered, try another.
Use certain sounds to work on particular speech areas
Speech therapists use tongue twisters to improve the child’s constant and vowel sounds. Tongue twisters ensure that the students articulate the syllables and not slur the sounds together. As well, if the student has difficult with the ‘p’ and ‘b’ sound, the therapist will have the student practice tongue twisters that focus on these sounds.
Examples of ‘p’ tongue twisters include:
Examples of ‘b’ tongue twisters include:
Examples of ‘s’ tongue twisters include:
5 tongue twister games for speech development
1. To target articulation, select tongue twisters featuring phonemes that are particularly difficult for your child, for example if they have trouble making the hard ‘t’ sound, practice tongue twisters that use that particular alliteration.
2. To bolster confidence, select tongue twisters featuring phonemes your child is particularly good at. To really make them laugh, the adult can recite tongue twisters with phonemes they are bad at! Kids love seeing adults get things wrong.
3. To make a game of it, print out a bunch of tongue twisters, cut them into individual strips, put the strips in a basket, have each player draw one, and award points based on how few repetitions are needed to master it.
4. To work on speed, add a stopwatch to the game and make the player who can recite the twister correctly in the shortest time the winner of each round.
5. To motivate your child, use tongue twisters as "Get Out of Time-Out Free" cards; if your child can recite one correctly, he's sprung.
Find more about kids speech and language development:
- Speech and language development for pre-kinder children
- Speech and language development for 5-6 year olds
- Speech and language development for 7-8 year olds
- Speech and language development for 9-10 year olds
- Speech and language development for 11-12 year olds
- What is phonetics
- What is phonics
- What is phonemics
- How tongue twisters aid speech and language
- The importance of nursery rhymes
- Simple songs to boost speech and language
- Learning a second language
- All about syllables
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This story was written by Alex Brooks for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading education resource.