Amy’s Speech Sound Development in Children: Level 1-Early Developing Sounds

Hi, my name is Amy King, and I am a speech-language pathologist. For the next several months, our blog focus is going to be on articulation, or speech sound production. We hope to provide parents with more information on speech sound development and strategies and resources to help your child at home. This month, we will focus on the early developing speech sounds, succeeded by middle developing speech sounds, and then later developing speech sounds. We hope you enjoy and find some useful and helpful information! 

Children’s speech sounds develop from the time they begin babbling their first sounds as babies all the way until half way through elementary school. In this month’s speech blog, we will be focusing on the early developing sounds. Please make sure to read through the information below the video and any links provided. The early developing sounds that typically emerge between 1 and 3 three years old are: /m/ as in mama, /b/ as in ball, , /n/ as in no, /w/ as in wa-wa or water, /d/ as in daddy, /p/ as in pot, and /h/ as in hot.


Lets start with our focus on /p, b, and m/. These 3 sounds are “sister sounds,” because they all share the same placement technique for production. The fancy term for these sounds are “bi-labial” sounds because both of your lips come together to produce these sounds. If your child is having difficulty bring both of their lips together for these sounds, here are some helpful and fun things to do with your child: First, get the mirror out, let your child have fun looking at their mouth. Sometimes, with the aid of visual support, i.e. a mirror, children can better manipulate their speech makers. If they are still having trouble getting their lips together, give them some tactile or hands on cueing. Use your fingers to help bring their lips together, and then show them in the mirror. To practice the popping /p/ sound, hold a tissue in front of your child’s mouth and see if they can make the tissue move when they “pop” their /p/. You can try the same activity with /b/. For /m/, although your lips are together the sound actually is produced through your nose. So, /m/ is a good sound to practice while humming your child’s favorite song!  These three sounds are fun with kids, because you can practice a ton of animal sounds in your favorite songs or books (moo moo, peep peep, baa baa, bzzz  bzzz, meow meow, etc..)   Make sure you check out the links below for further activities to work on the “sister sounds” /p, b, m/.


The next two sounds /d/ and /n/ are also “sister sounds” in their own family, because they share the same placement techniques for production. The fancy term for these two sounds are “lingua-dentals” because your tongue tip goes right behind your top front teeth on the ridge on the roof of your mouth. The /d/ sound is made when you lift your tongue tip up on the ridge behind your top front teeth, and then release your tongue letting the air rush out. The /n/ sound is made exactly the same way, except the tongue tip stays up and the sound is made through the nose. Again, show your child how to make the sound with your tongue. If they cannot do it from looking at your mouth, try pulling out the mirror. If your child is still unable to lift the tongue tip up, or cannot locate the ridge in their mouth, you may need to physically “tickle or touch” the ridge in their mouth. Another technique is to put a dab ofpeanut butter, Nutella, yogurt, cream cheese etc… on that ridge behind their front teeth and tell them to “go get it” with their tongue tip. Have fun exploring, your child will too! See below for a link where you can actually print off free words paired with pictures for home practice.


The last two early developing sounds are /H/ and /W/. Very few children have difficulty producing /h/. Children that do have difficulty with /h/ generally have hearing impairment or some type of velo-pharyngeal incompetence (cleft palate). If your child is struggling with /h/ you may want to have them practice breathing extra hard by saying the /h/ sound against a feather, tissue, or lighted candle so that they can see how hard they need to push the air out for /h/. Last is /w/. Have your child look at you while you say /w/ and see if they can imitate. If they cannot, bring out the mirror and over exaggerate your production while slowing down for your child. If they still cannot produce the sound, talk about how /w/ is the “kissing sound” because your lips like your going to give a kiss when you are about to produce this sound. Practice your /w/ by blowing kisses to each other or things in the environment, making sure to make the /w/ sound as you blow your kisses!


As you explore the links provided, keep in mind the following speech hierarchy when teaching sounds: sound in isolation, syllables, words, phrases, sentences. We hope that we have provided you with some helpful and useful information. Here at Child Language and Developmental Speech we are available to provide screenings, evaluations, and treatment in the home, school, or here in our clinic.


Amy King