What Are Minimal Pairs?

Minimal pairs are words that differ in only one phonological element. They are a useful way to highlight a sound in a meaningful context and also to show the child the importance of correct pronunciation. The words generally rhyme (fin/thin, key/tea, sail/tail). Speech sounds and phonological awareness can be worked on at the same time!

Minimal pairs activities also helps children to develop their listening and discrimination skills. After a child’s listening discrimination skills are increased and they can recognize the difference that changing one sound in a word can change the meaning of the word, then speech productions can increase in length and complexity with games and other activities, targeting their misarticulated sounds. The goal is for kids to understand how the meaning of a word changes when the sounds are changed, which is why minimal pairs are so useful in early literacy.

The chart below shows the average age that English consonants are acquired. 

Common Substitutions

F for Voiceless TH-”free for three” If /r/ is also not developed you may hear “fwee” for “three”

D for Voiced TH-”dis for this” (dis, dat, doz for this, that, those)

W for R and/or L-”wabbit for rabbit” or “wips for lips” or ci-wee-ow for cereal. Medial and final sounds can be harder to articulate.

T for K- “tub for cub” “tea for key” “betuz for because”

These substitutions are cute for a little while, but once kids start putting more words together it becomes harder to understand them and then both the speaker and the listener can become frustrated. As kids get into early literacy, and the sound is no longer developmental in nature, articulation errors need to be remediated so they do not interfere with literacy skill development.

There are numerous activities targeting minimal pairs. You can also make your own using flash cards, although you need a lot of them. Here are some to get you started!

At Vibe, our speech therapists are trained to work with children of every age, and in every facet of speech and language. 

We are experts in our field. The clinical and personal relationship we have with you is at the core of everything we do. From the resources we bring to support growth in communication, to the highly individualized therapy sessions. We offer collaborative partnerships with other providers, family and caregivers and we are committed to exceeding your expectations. We look forward to helping your child bring their best self into the world!
Contact Vibe Speech Therapy to learn more about how we can help you!