Targeting Minimal Pairs at Home

Enrichment Therapies

September 19, 2023

Minimal pairs infographic

Originally written by: Suzanne Schuchert, M.S., CCC-SLP (2021)

Updated by: Ashley Conrad, M.A., CCC-SLP (2023)

Does your child’s speech-language therapy treatment plan include minimal pairs? Have you ever wondered what that meant or how to practice it at home? Let us help get these questions answered! 

What is Minimal Pair Intervention?

Minimal pair intervention utilizes words that only differ by one sound or one “phoneme”. This intervention is used to help a student diagnosed with a phonological disorder understand that speech errors can change the entire meaning of the word they are attempting to produce. For example, a student who consistently changes /r/ sounds to /w/ sounds would benefit from looking at picture cards illustrating wing and ring. As wing and ring sound exactly the same, with the exception of the first sound, they are minimal pair words. 

How Can Parents Become “Minimal Pair Therapists?”

During sessions, word/picture cards similar to the above image may be used to target minimal pairs. Of course, parents don’t have an infinite set of minimal pair cards they can carry around and use to demonstrate every one of their child’s speech-sound errors. However, parents can easily use the tenets of minimal pair therapy at home or on the go with their child! Let’s discuss 3 ways to target minimal pairs at home!

Feigned Misunderstanding

Feigned misunderstanding is a great strategy that parents can use to help children improve their understanding of how sounds combine together to make words.

For example, for a child who changes /k/ sounds to /t/, a parent can “feign” misunderstanding when their child asks for a “tup” rather than a “cup”. Instead of immediately getting the child what they ask for, the parent could say, “Tup? I don’t know what a tup is.” If the child isn’t quite ready to correct the error on their own after the use of feigned misunderstanding, the parent can say something like, “Oh, did you mean a cup? You have to use the /k/ sound to say cup. Let’s try it together.” 

When using this strategy, it is important to pay attention to the child’s reactions. Use the feigned misunderstanding strategy as long as it does not frustrate their child or make them feel self-conscious. As parents are the experts on their child, it is important for them to watch for signs of frustration and/or self-consciousness while using this strategy. A child should never have to feel shame about their speech errors, especially from using a strategy that was created to help them increase their skills and confidence.

Purposeful Mistakes

Another great way to use minimal pair concepts in the home environment is for parents to make their own mistakes and draw their child’s attention to them. Let’s return to the last example. The parent could say, “I need a tup.” Some kids will catch their parent’s error and point it out. If not, the parent could say, “Oops, I made a mistake! I meant to say cup, not tup!” This is a great opportunity for parents to make light of making mistakes by laughing at their errors.

Playing Teacher

Many students also love the opportunity to “be the teacher”. This strategy can be used with any minimal pair homework that is sent home by your speech-language pathologist. The parent can tell their child that it’s their turn to be the teacher. The parent will practice saying words that contain the student’s target sound and make errors on purpose. The child is in charge of trying to catch their parent’s mistakes. This activity can be even more fun if there is a fun way for the child to indicate errors and correct responses. For example, parents can download a free app that has various “buzzer” sounds that the child can press when the parent makes an error. 

Watch Your Child Thrive with Speech Support from ETLC

If you think your little one could benefit from some one-on-one support, contact Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center to schedule a consultation. Located in the Iowa City and Des Moines area, our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Give us a call today!

740 Community Drive, Suite A

North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131


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