Early Speech Sound Cues - teachmetotalk.com (2022)

In speech therapy when we first start to target specific sounds with very young children, speech-language pathologists often think of teaching sounds in patterns or classes.

Usually this is based on where the sounds are made in your mouth. The theory is if a child learns to say one sound in the group, the other sounds will emerge without as much effort. (Sometimes it’s not that easy, and if that’s the case, I’d strongly encourage you to rely on a pediatric speech-language pathologist to guide you with techniques that work best for your individual child.)

Listed below is a very simple guide to doing this at home with your child with the early speech sounds /p, b, m, t, d, n, h, w/ all sounds thought to be mastered by 2 by most children.

Additionally you’ll see:

The name you can call the sound to help your child remember how to produce the sound

Several different ideas for helping your child begin to say the sound correctly.

A word list to give you ideas for words to practice in play and in your daily routines. Please note that the lists begin with simple words which should be easier for your child to say.

As soon as your child can do the sound, move it QUICKLY into a real word!

Early Lip Sounds /p, b, m/

SLPs call these sounds bilabials since they are made by placing both of your lips together.These consonants are mastered at both the beginning and endings of words by 24 months.

Names for Lip Sounds

/p/ and /b/ – popper sound, for /b/ “big popper”

/m/ – “mmm” good sound, motor sound, humming sound

If your child can’t imitate a /p, b, m/ sound, try these ideas:

(These ideas are grouped according to how much help your child needs to produce the sound correctly. If your child isn’t close to producing the sound, start with the ones at the top. Move to ideas at the bottom as your child gets better at saying the sound.)

1. Put chapstick or lip gloss on your & child’s lips and practice rubbing lips together then open & close lips with a “pop” for /p/ and /b/ and “mmmmm” for /m/.

2. Blow raspberries, car noises, or do air kisses to get lips together.Move to smacking lips.

3. Put yogurt or peanut butter on your & child’s lips and encourage to put lips together.

4. Use whistles or horns with flat (not round) mouth pieces to help your child close his lips to blow.

5. For /p/ and /b/ tap your lips with your finger as you make sound and encourage him to do this with his finger. You can even tap his lips with your fingers if this doesn’t make him too mad.

6.For /m/ – Get your child to ?|”hum,” or if this is still difficult, get him to vocalize with a vowel “ah” or “uh” and close his lips with your fingers (index finger on top and thumb on bottom).

7. For /p/ – Have your child blow then open and close his lips with a pop, or you help with your fingers.

8. For /b/ – Have your child hum then open and close his lips, or help with your fingers.

9. For /m/ – I also use the cue hide your lips for kids who can get their lips together in a pucker, but don’t close them.

Lip Sounds at the Beginning

/p/ – pop, pee, poop, Pooh, Papa, play (“pay” is fine), pat, please (“pee” is fine), pig

/b/ – ball, bubble (“bubu” is fine), baa (for sheep), baba (for bottle), boo, boom (with hammer toys), Boots (for Dora lovers or in the winter), bug, baby, bye- bye, big, bird (Sometimes “buh” is all you can get), block (“boh” is fine), blow (?bo? is fine), balloon (His best effort is fine!)

/m/ – more, me, my, mine, Mama, moo (cow sound), milk (hard word but practical!)

Lip Sounds at the Ends

/p/ – up, pop, poop, hop, beep, nap, cup

I don’t usually target /b/ and /m/ or any other voiced sound like /d/ or /g/ at the ends of words because young toddlers and young preschoolers end up adding an extra “uh” for emphasis and end up saying “Bed – uh” or “Bug-uh.” Stick to targeting final /p/ and finals /b/ and /m/ should emerge in time. If not, talk to your child’s SLP for practice words.

If your child can say words with one of these sounds at the beginning correctly, try to introduce words with the other sounds at the beginning. The same holds true for ending sounds.

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Early Middle of the Mouth Sounds – /t, d, n/

SLPs call these sounds alveolars since these sounds are made by placing your tongue on your alveolar ridge, or the space with bumps just behind your top teeth.

Beginning and final /t/ and /n/ are usually produced by 75% of children by 24 months. Beginning and final /d/ are mastered by 28 months.

Names for Sounds

/t/ and /d/- tongue tapper or tippy Sound

/n/ – “nnnn” sound or “NNNN” sound (emphasize the /n/)

If your child can?t imitate a /t, d, n/ sound, try these ideas:

1. Since your child needs to be able to lift his tongue to touch the hard palate to say these sounds, work on tongue elevation so that he lifts his tongue and touches his bumps. Once his tongue is up, then have him try /t/.

2. Try to get him to click his tongue, then move to saying /t/.

3. Model a /t/ sound when pretending to eat.

4.Lick a sucker, ice cream from a cone, popsicles, etc

5. Make dots on paper with bingo markers and say, Dot, dot, dot

6. If your child can’t elevate his tongue, work on having him copy any tongue movement first to make him more aware of tongue movements in general. HOWEVER, CHILDREN WITH APRAXIA OFTEN CANNOT IMITATE MOVEMENTS OF THEIR MOUTHS WHEN THEY CAN SAY SOUNDS IN WORDS, SO DON’T GET STUCK HERE TOO LONG. IF HE OR SHE CAN’T DO THESE, MOVE ON!

7.If he can’t get his tongue up at all, maybe his SLP can try to lift and lower his tongue with a tongue depressor while he’s humming for /d/ or blowing for /t/. (I use lots of caution with this method since this can be a huge turn-off for toddlers. I only do this as a very last resort after I’ve tried everything else for several weeks.)

8. A more fun version for a child is for you to place a cheerio or peanut butter or yogurt on his bumps and have him touch his tongue there to get it. However, most toddlers don’t understand this yet and just want to eat the treat!

9. For /t/ and /d/ tap above your top lip in the center under your nose with your finger as you make the sound and encourage him to do this with his finger. You can even tap his face with your fingers if this doesn’t make him too mad.

10.For /n/ tape your nose as you say the sound and encourage him to do this with his finger. You can even touch his nose with your finger if it doesn’t make him too upset.

Middle of the Mouth Sounds at the Beginning

/t/ – two, ta-da, toe, tap (when you’re hammering), tub/tubby (for bathtime), TV,toy, table

/d/ – Dada, down, doll, duck, door, dog (sometimes hard because of the /g/), Dora & Diego (for kids who love that show), diaper (more difficult but a great word!)

/n/ – no, nose, night-night, nana (for banana), knee, need

Middle of the Mouth Sounds at the Ends

/t/ – eat, boat, hat, boot, wet

(Cat is usually not a good word to practice because the initial “c.” If you really want to know why, email me!)

I don’t usually target /d/ and /n/ or any other voiced sound like /b/ or /g/ at the ends of words because young toddlers and young preschoolers end up adding an extra “uh” for emphasis and end up saying “Bed – uh” or “Bug-uh.” Stick to targeting final /t/ and finals /d/ and /n/ should emerge in time. If not, talk to your child’s SLP for practice words.

If your child can say words with one of these sounds at the beginning correctly, try to introduce words with the other sounds at the beginning. The same holds true for ending sounds.

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Other Early Sounds /h/

Beginning /h/ is usually produced by 75% of children by 24 months, and beginning /w/ by 32 months. Neither of these sounds really occur in the final positions in words (or are silent if there for spelling such as how or really are another sound such as the “gh” for /f/ in “laugh”

Names for Sounds

/h/ – Breathy Sound, Windy Sound, Doggie Sound

If your child can’t imitate an /h/ sound, try these ideas:

1. Blow breathe on a glass window or door while saying an /h/ sound so your child can see your air then have him try /h/.

2.If your child can’t blow, practice doing this in a mirror, with a Kleenex, or thru a straw into a drink to make bubbles or with a straw to blow cotton balls across a table. (Caution – Your goal here should be to help him make an /h/! If you stick to these activities for too long, your child may become an expert blower, but still not know how to say words with /h/! Your goal here is the speech sound, not the blowing, so don?t be deceived by these tricks!! Use them only to move to /h/!)

3. Pant like a dog for /h/. When he can do it with just his voice, then move to vowels with it Huh, huh, huh,Hah, hah, etc. Then try Hi and Hey and you’ve got some words!!

4. Take your child’s hand and place his palm in front of your mouth as you say /h/ so he can feel your breath. Now tell him you want to feel his and place your hand in front of his mouth while he tries the sound.

Early /h/ Words

/h/ – Hey, hi, hat, hot, hop, HoHo (for Santa), help, hide, hole, head

Harder ones – hello, head, hair, house, happy, hurt, horse

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Other Early Consonant Sound – /w/

Beginning /w/ is mastered by 75% of children by 32 months. Neither of these sounds really occur in the final positions in words (or is silent if there for spelling such as how.)

/w/ – Slidey Sound (Slide from “oooo” to “eeee”)

Round Your Lips Sound for /w/ if he can?t do the first part

1.Have your child blow whistles or horns with round mouth pieces. Practice straw drinking so your child can round his lips.

2.Try to pucker then smile then add /w/.

3. Start out saying “ooo” then move to “eee.” (Practice monkey sounds first then add /w/ with an “uh.”)

Early /w/ Words

want, one, whee, woof (for dog), waaa (baby’s cry), wet, wash, walk

Harder ones – water, wagon, wheel, waffle, window

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Look for part 2 of this article for the later developing consonant sounds of /k, g, f, s/, “ch,” “sh,” and “y,” coming soon!!

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