What Sounds Develop First?

Enrichment Therapies

October 21, 2021

By: Meghan Randig, M.A., CCC-SLP

First words begin to appear in a child’s expressive communication around the age of one-year-old. Taking a closer look at those first words, we can almost always expect certain speech sounds to come out first. These early developing speech sounds include all vowel sounds, as well as the consonants /p/, /m/, and /b/, which are typically mastered around the age of two years old. These three consonants, /p, m, b/, are considered “bilabials” and are produced when a child’s lips are pressed together and then quickly opened to release airflow. To encourage speech development, it is important to model these bilabial sounds early on. Here are some creative and fun ways to model these sounds in everyday play and activities!  

Reciprocal play with a bouncy ball can provide many repetitions for bilabial speech sounds. The ball can “bounce” “back” and forth, go “up”, and can be the color “blue”. Taking turns by “passing” the ball “back” and forth encourages the child to make eye contact and watch your lips as they make these sounds. You can include the model for “push” when moving the ball. When taking turns, you may also model some pronouns, like my, me, mine. 

During mealtimes, you can model requests for “more” by withholding some of a highly preferred food group and then emphasizing the word when handing the food to the child. You can also encourage “milk” and the word “please” during any request. Here are common food names that contain target bilabial sounds: banana, potato, beans, apple, blueberries, muffin, pizza, and pasta. 

When playing with bubbles, there are many opportunities to model bilabial sounds. As the child tries to pop each bubble, encourage labeling the action as “pop”. The child can direct you to make the bubbles go “up” or make them “big” or small. When the lid is on the bubble container, the request for “open” models the bilabial sound /p/. The word “bubbles” itself is also a great target word. 

Pretend play or picture books with farm animals will present opportunities for labeling animals and their corresponding noises. For example, the cow says “mooo” pairs the bilabial /m/ with a vowel sound, the sheep says “baaaa” pairs the bilabial /b/ with a different vowel sound and the cat says “meow” pairs the bilabial /m/ with a combination of vowel and consonant sounds. You can find the “baby” animals and the “mommy” animals. Some animal names with these sounds include: pig, mouse, llama, puppy, and sheep and they all live in a “barn”. 

There are many books that are loaded with bilabials sounds! Here are a few books for each sound: 

/b/ — Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?, A Bug, a Bear, and a Boy, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Wheels on the Bus

/p/ — The Three Little Pigs, Piggies in Pajamas, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Too Many Pumpkins, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

/m/ — If You Give a Moose a Muffin, Are You My Mother?, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, The Mitten, Goodnight Moon

Young children learn best through naturalistic play and routine-based activities. Spending five minutes of uninterrupted time with your child each day will make a meaningful difference in their language development! 

Want to make sure your child is on track for their speech and language development? We offer free screenings! Give us a call to learn more! Interested in learning more about early intervention? Click here!  

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech-language therapy and tutoring as well as offering small group academic programs.  At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.


740 Community Drive, Unit A

North Liberty, IA 52317



5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300

Johnston, IA 50131




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