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Strategies to Help Your Toddler Produce the Bilabial Sounds

Babies learn to produce their first words in much the same way they learn to walk and rollover. They try, they fall down, they get back up, and they keep trying until they succeed. As parents, we can provide some helpful support to our toddlers as they learn to say their first letters and words. One of the few sounds children produce correctly from birth are P, B, and M. In this post, we'll share some strategies that can help your toddler produce Ps, Bs, and Ms. Keep reading for more information!


In this article we will discuss:


Children producing their bilabial sounds


Speech Sound Development: Bilabial Sounds

Speech sounds develop at different times. Bilabial sounds such as P, B, and M are some of the earliest speech sounds that toddlers typically learn to produce correctly. However, mispronunciations are common when children are learning to speak. As children's vocabularies expand and they say more words and combine words together, their ability to speak more clearly usually improves too.


The P, B, and M sounds are all bilabial sounds. This means that both lips are used to make the sound. To produce these sounds correctly, your child will need to use their lips, tongue, and teeth in the correct way.


The P sound

The P sound is relatively the easiest and first sound children produce correctly. This sound is a bilabial stop. This means that both your lips come together (stopping the airflow) and then release (allowing the air to flow out again) like that of a popping bubble.

When producing the P sound, toddlers should purse their lips together and blow out air to make the sound. It may help to say the word "pop" as you produce the sound. Some common words that use the P sound are "pop", "pot", "pat", and "pill".


Help your toddler with their bilabial sounds

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Visual cues

When you teach your child to produce the P sound, it is best when you provide both verbal and visual cues. You can use your own mouth to model the sound for your child or you may opt to use a mirror so that your child can see exactly what you are doing.


If using a mirror, stand in front of your child and demonstrate how to produce the P sound. Your lips should be pursed together and you should blow out air to make the sound. You can say the word "pop" as you produce the sound. You can also try using a tissue or a cotton ball to help your child see how the air is moving out of their mouth when they produce the sound. Your child may need some time to practice producing the sound on their own. Encourage them to keep trying and praise them when they are successful.


Tactile cues

If your child is having difficulty seeing what you are doing, you can provide some tactile cues. Touch your child's lips lightly and say the word "pop". As you say the word, help guide their lips into the correct position for producing the P sound. You may need to do this a few times before your child is able to produce the sound on their own.

Materials you can use to target P sound production

There are a variety of materials you can use to help your child practice producing the P sound. You likely have some of these items around your house already!

  • Blowing bubbles: Use bubble solution and have your child blow bubbles. As they blow the bubbles, encourage them to produce the P sound.

  • Balloons: Inflate a balloon and have your child hold onto the end. As they hold onto the end, encourage them to produce the P sound. The air escaping from the balloon will help them feel the production of the sound.

  • Pom poms: Hold a pom pom in front of your mouth and say words that use the P sound (e.g., "pop", "pot", "pat"). As you say each word, drop the pom-pom into a container.

The B Sound

The B sound is a voiced bilabial stop. This means that not only do both lips come together to stop the airflow, but the vocal cords are also used to produce the sound. The B sound is produced in the same way as the P sound, except that your child will need to use their vocal cords to make a "b" sound while they blow out air. Some common words that use the B sound are "baby", "ball", and "bed".

Visual Cues

When you teach your child to produce the B sound, it is best when you provide both verbal and visual cues. You can use your own mouth to model the sound for your child or you may opt to use a mirror so that your child can see exactly what you are doing.


If using a mirror, stand in front of your child and demonstrate how to produce the B sound. Your lips should be pursed together and you should blow out air to make the sound. You can say the word "baby" as you produce the sound.


Tactile Cues

If your child is having difficulty seeing what you are doing, you can provide some tactile cues. Touch your child's lips lightly and say the word "baby". As you say the word, help guide their lips into the correct position for producing the B sound. You may need to do this a few times before your child is able to produce the sound on their own.

Child reading a book with B sounds.


Materials you can use to target B sound production:

  • Books: Look for books that have a lot of B words such as "Brown Bear, Brown Bear. What Do You See?" by Eric Carle. As you read the book, point to the words that use the B sound and have your child produce the sound.

  • Sing Nursery Rhymes: There are many nursery rhymes that use the B sound such as "Baa, Baa Black Sheep" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb". As you sing the nursery rhyme, point to the words that use the B sound and have your child produce the sound.

  • Make a Game: Cut out pictures from magazines or print pictures from the internet of things that start with the B sound. Once you have a good selection of pictures, glue them onto index cards. Play a matching game with your child by spreading the cards out face down. Take turns flipping over two cards at a time. If the two cards match, remove them from the play area. If they don't match, flip them back over and try again. As you play, point to the words that use the B sound and have your child produce the sound.

The M Sound

The M sound is a voiced bilabial nasal. This means that not only do both lips come together to stop the airflow, but the vocal cords are also used to produce the sound and the air goes out through the nose. The M sound is produced by placing your lips in the same position as if you were going to produce the P sound. However, instead of blowing out air, you will allow the air to escape through your nose. Some common words that use the M sound are "mom", "milk", and "monkey".

Visual Cues

When you teach your child to produce the M sound, it is best when you provide both verbal and visual cues. You can use your own mouth to model the sound for your child or you may opt to use a mirror so that your child can see exactly what you are doing.


If using a mirror, stand in front of your child and demonstrate how to produce the M sound. Your lips should be pursed together and you should allow the air to escape through your nose. You can say the word "mom" as you produce the sound.


Tactile Cues

If your child is having difficulty seeing what you are doing, you can provide some tactile cues. Touch your child's lips lightly and say the word "mom". As you say the word, help guide their lips into the correct position for producing the M sound. You may need to do this a few times before your child is able to produce the sound on their own.


Materials you can use to target M sound production:

  • Online games: There are many online phonics games that target the M sound such as this one from Starfall. SplashLearn also offers a free app for iPad that targets beginning sound production.

  • Mealtime: Use mealtime as an opportunity to practice M sound production. As you are preparing food, point to the items that start with the M sound and have your child name them. For example, "Can you please hand me the milk?". Saying "mmm" when the food is yummy is also a great way to practice the M sound.

  • Make a Match: Cut out pictures from magazines or print pictures from the internet of things that start with the M sound. Once you have a good selection of pictures, glue them onto index cards. Play a matching game with your child by spreading the cards out face down. Take turns flipping over two cards at a time. If the two cards match, remove them from the play area. If they don't match, flip them back over and try again. As you play, point to the words that use the M sound and have your child produce the sound.

Build the sound at syllable, word, sentence and conversational level.

Practice each sound in isolation first. This means that your child should only produce the sound by itself without any other sounds. To do this, have your child hold out their hand and say "mmm" while they slide their hand down their face.


Once they are able to produce the M sound in isolation, you can begin to practice it in words. Start with one-syllable words such as "ma", "me", "mi", "mo", and "mu". For B sound, you can use "ba", "be", "bi", "bo", and "bu" and for P sounds, you can use "pa", "pe", "pi", "po", and "pu".

After your child is able to produce the M sound in one-syllable words, you can move on to two-syllable words such as "mama", "meme", "mimi", "momo", and "mumu". For B sound, you can use "baba", "bebe", "bibi", "bobo", and "bubu" and for P sounds, you can use "papa", "pepe", "pipi", "popo", and "pupu".

Once your child is able to produce the M sound in two-syllable words, you can move on to words in different word positions. This means that the M sound can be in different positions within the word such as at the beginning, middle, or end. For example,

  • beginning: mouse, mother, Monday

  • middle: camel, comforter, acrobat

  • end: film, helmet, dream

For B sounds, you can use

  • beginning: book, baby, ball

  • middle: umbrella, submarine, obstacles

  • end: herb, web, subpoena

For P sounds, you can use

  • beginning: pig, paper, pen

  • middle: receipt, cupboard, super

  • end: graph, aloud, step

After this, you can move on to sentences such as "Mommy is cooking dinner." and "I am going to the store with mom." Last, you can begin to carry over the bilabial sounds into the conversation. This means that your child should be able to produce the sound in any context and not just when explicitly practicing it. Encourage your child to use these bilabial sounds in words and sentences throughout the day. You can also point out words that use the bilabial sounds when you are reading stories or watching movies. When your child produces the sound correctly in conversation, be sure to praise them! This will allow them to feel confident and motivated to continue using the sound correctly.

Child attending speech therapy to fix his bilabial sounds.


When to Seek Professional Help

If your child is not producing these bilabial sounds by 3 years of age or you have concerns about their speech development, it is best to seek professional help. A speech-language pathologist will be able to assess your child's speech and provide you with specific recommendations for at-home practice.


Who can have trouble producing bilabial sounds?

There are several different speech sound disorders that can impact a child's ability to produce bilabial sounds.

  • Articulation disorder is a type of speech sound disorder that involves difficulty producing one or more specific sounds. Some children may have problems producing bilabials and substituting them for another sound or omitting it completely.

  • Apraxia of speech is a motor speech disorder in which an individual has difficulty producing sounds, even though they have the ability to do so. Children with Apraxia may have difficulty executing the motor plan for producing specific sounds, including bilabials.

  • Dysarthria is a motor speech disorder that is caused by neuromuscular problems. This can make it difficult to produce clear speech sounds. It is common for children with dysarthria to have trouble producing bilabials.

  • Children with Cleft lip and/or palate often have trouble producing bilabials. This is due to structural abnormalities in the lip and/or roof of the mouth. Children with clefts may also have velopharyngeal insufficiency, which can cause problems with producing bilabials.

These are a few of the disorders that affect the production of bilabial sounds. If you are concerned that your child may have difficulty producing bilabials, or any other sound, it is best to seek professional help.


At Better Speech we know you deserve speech therapy that works. We have experts in your needs and assign the right therapist, not just the therapist that happens to be in your area. Bilabial sounds can be difficult, but with the right support, your child can learn to lead a happy and successful life. At Better Speech, we offer online speech therapy services convenient for you and tailored to your child's individual needs. Our services are affordable and effective - get Better Speech now.


 

About the Author

Mikee Larrazabal


I am a Speech-Language Pathologist with 14 years of experience working with children and adults who have communication difficulties. I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science at Cebu Doctors' University and have been helping people overcome their communication challenges ever since.


I have worked with individuals of different ages, including toddlers, preschoolers, school-aged children, adults and seniors. I'm passionate about speech therapy and take great satisfaction in helping people overcome their communication challenges and improve their lives through better communication skills. In my spare time I like reading books, going hiking in nature and taking care of my dog Locas.

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