What Sounds Develop First?

Enrichment Therapies

January 15, 2024

Originally written by: Meghan Randig, M.A., CCC-SLP

Updated by: Taelor Johnson, M.S., CCC-SLP

It’s an incredibly exciting time in any parent’s life when their child utters their first word. Typically, first words appear in a child’s expressive communication around the age of one year old. When taking a closer look, we can almost always expect certain speech sounds to develop first. These early developing sounds include all vowels and bilabial sounds. Below are some ways you can model bilabial sounds and include them in some daily activities to further development!

What Are Bilabial Sounds?

Bilabial sounds are /p/, /b/, /m/, and are typically fully developed by the time the child is two years old. Bilabial sounds require the child to press their lips together and then quickly open them to release airflow.

Before a child utters their first word, these bilabial sounds can typically be heard in their babbling. A child typically begins babbling single sounds at around four months of age. Following that, a child should begin to group sounds into multiple syllables around seven months of age. These building blocks eventually help morph the sounds into words.

When To Encourage Bilabial Sound Development

At this age, children do not know that these groups of syllables have functional meanings as words. That’s why it is important to model these sounds early on to encourage speech and language development.

Reciprocal Play

Reciprocal play with a ball can provide many repetitions for bilabial speech sounds. The ball can “bounce”, go “up”, and go “more”. You can practice taking turns with your child by “passing” the “ball” “back” and forth. Encourage your child to look at you when you say the words so they are observing how your lips are producing each sound. 

You may also be able to model some pronouns during play, such as “mine”, ”me”, and “my” turn. Make sure when you are playing with your child that you are naturally modeling the word productions in context, rather than asking your child to “say ball” or “say more”. Modeling language naturally creates a play environment without expectations, making it more enjoyable and less stressful for your child. 

Meal or Snack Time

During meal or snack times, you can model many of these sounds! You can withhold some highly preferred foods and then emphasize the word “more” when handing it to them. You can also utilize foods that start with these sounds that your child may enjoy. These include “milk”, “banana”, “beans”, “bottle”, “muffin”, “apple”, and so much more! You can also emphasize the word “yum” after your child takes a bite. 

Pretend Play

Another fun way to encourage the production of these bilabial sounds is through pretend play. Playing with animals often presents opportunities for producing these sounds. For example, the cow says “moo”, the sheep says “baa”, and the cat says “meow”. All of these animal sounds pair a bilabial sound (/m/, /b/, /m/) with a vowel combination. Some animals that begin with bilabial sounds that would provide good opportunities for sound production include pig, mouse, puppy, and sheep, and they all may live in a barn. 

Reading Together

Reading books with your child is beneficial in so many ways, but it also provides many opportunities for practicing these bilabial sounds. Below are some books that are loaded with bilabial sounds: 

/b/ – Brown Bear, Bear Bear, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Wheels on the Bus

/p/ – Three Little Pigs, If You Give a Pig a Pancake, Too Many Pumpkins

/m/ – If You Give a Moose a Muffin, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Goodnight Moon

Young children learn speech and language best through modeling, naturalistic play, and routine-based activities. Spending time each day on these sounds is priceless, and will make a meaningful impact on their overall speech and language development! 

Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center is Here to Help Your Child Succeed

At Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center, we strive to provide a comfortable and supportive environment while providing high-quality speech therapy services to increase each child’s skills. We partner with parents and other caregivers to promote the generalization of skills and strategies. If you have concerns about your child’s development, please contact us!


740 Community Drive, Unit A
North Liberty, IA 52317


5530 West Pkwy, Suite 300
Johnston, IA 50131

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