In my last post, I mentioned that some sounds are more visible than others. But what do I mean by sounds being “visible?” Think about what a baby or toddler sees when they watch you talk. The most visible sounds are the sounds for which our lips come together: /p, b, m/ and /w/. They see our lips move and they hear the sound at the same time.
(Did I mention yet, that the slash marks // indicate the sound of the letter vs. the name of the letter? So, /b/ means we’re talking about the sound of the letter, not the letter B, itself. Make sense?)
Anyway, back to those lip sounds…
A common phrase used to describe how we make /p/ and /b/ is borrowed from a popular intervention program, and it’s to say that our lips are “popping.”
Exaggerate these sounds by holding your lips tightly together and really let the /p/ and /b/ burst as you say them:
“b!… b!… b!… My lips are popping! b!… b!…”
You can start to incorporate this into daily interactions by commenting when you notice it in certain words. Imagine your little one in the shopping cart seat and you pick up some bananas and show them to her:
“Bananas. You love bananas. Hey! b… b… bananas. I popped my lips again!”
Or, your child reaches up to you and says, “uh!” You could respond while you lift him up and model the word with it’s ending sound:
“You want up! Up. Up. Oh! Watch my lips pop… Up! Up!”
Pointing to your mouth helps draw their attention to your lips, and you’ll probably see them imitating that, too.
As for /m/ and /w/, they aren’t as easy to exaggerate, but you can still draw attention to your lips and talk about them:
“Mmmommy. I use my lips to say “mmm,” or “w… water… my lips help me say w… w…”
These sounds are usually the first to appear in babbling and speech because they are so visible and relatively easy. But we should be prepared to talk about them, nonetheless. There are plenty of kiddos who will leave off the first and/or last consonants in words – speech shortcuts called “initial consonant deletion” and “final consonant deletion.”
It can be VERY difficult to understand a child with these speech patterns. Put the two together and a sentence like, “Me put cat in potty,” will sound like “ee uh a ih ah ee.” Neither you nor the cat have time to try figure this out.