Try These Terrific Tongue Twisters

It’s not International Tongue Twister Day until November 12, but it’s never too soon to practice!

a pug with its tongue sticking out

You know who loves tongue twisters? Kids. Playing with language is a great way to get kids thinking about words, sentences, and sounds, and what better way to play with language than with tongue twisters?

Try it!

Betty Botter bought a bit of butter but the bit of butter was too bitter,
so Betty bought a better bit of butter to make the bitter butter better.

Why do we sometimes trip over certain combinations of words? Why are some combinations more likely to make our mouths “twist” than others?

Talking is a pretty complex process. Our brains have to tell different muscles in our lips, teeth, tongues, and throats to move in different ways to make different sounds. Sometimes, with sounds that use similar muscles, synapses get crossed and the sounds come out wrong.

Try it! Say these words over and over. What happens? “Toy boat toy boat toy boat…”

At some point, you might realize you’re saying “Toy boyt toy boyt…”

How about “Top cop top cop top cop?” What happens to that top cop?

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the toughest English phrase to say is ““The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick.” (Some of us here at Nomad can’t even get through it once!) Scientists study tongue twisters like these to learn more about how we make speech and to help solve problems for those people who have trouble with certain sounds because of learning challenges or injuries.

Ready for a Language Arts lesson in your classroom or library? Have kids practice tongue twisters and then ask them to make up their own. What makes a good tongue twister? Does the phrase or sentence need to have meaning? Which sounds get confused the most? Have them challenge each other with their own tongue twisters!

Looking for some good tongue twisters? Try these from Everything Mom!

Want to learn more about how our mouths make our sounds? Read this NPR article on the mechanics of talk.

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