Hesperian Health Guides

Helping the Child Learn to Make Sounds and Speak

1. If the child hears at all, encourage her to notice and listen to different sounds.
2. Play games and do exercises to help her learn to use her mouth, tongue, and lips.
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Have her press her lips together as if saying “mmm,”
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make a circle like ‘O’ and
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stretch her mouth and smile as if saying “eee”.
See if she can touch her nose, her chin, and her cheeks with her tongue. Have her blow soap bubbles, or blow out candles. Give her foods to chew and suck.
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3. Encourage the child to begin to make sounds. ‘Mmm’ is good to start with because it is easy to make. If necessary, show the child how he can hold his lips together to make it. Sit close to him so he can see (and hear?) and copy you. Other sounds that are usually easy to learn are ‘ah’, ‘ay’, ‘ee’, ‘aw’, ‘o’, ‘p’, ‘b’, ‘t’, and ‘d’. (Keep more difficult sounds like v, ‘w‘ ‘j’, ‘s’ ‘n’, ‘r’, and ‘z’ for later.)
a child and a woman speaking to each other.
4. If the child uses his mouth and lips, but not his voice, have him feel the ‘buzz’ or vibration in your throat when you make different sounds. To get the ‘feel’ of different words, you can place his hands on your cheeks, lips, throat, and chest. Then have the child feel his own throat, as he tries to copy you.
a child speaking with a woman while she holds his hand to her throat.
Good! That's much better!
a child and a woman speaking while holding their hands in front of their mouths.
B, B, BR
5. Also have the child feel and compare the movement of the air in front of your mouth and his mouth with sounds like ‘ha’, ‘he’, ‘ho’, ‘m‘, ‘p‘, ‘b’, and ‘f’.

In the same way, have him feel the air move when he ‘blows his nose’ with his mouth closed. Using this, try to teach sounds like ‘n’ and ‘l’.
6. Begin to teach the child words using the sounds he is learning. First separate the word into different sounds. To say “Ma,” first get the child to say “m” with the lips closed. Then “ah” with the mouth open. Then say the word “mah” and have him try to copy you.
7. As the child learns words, teach him what they mean, and have him use them. For example, to teach the child ‘nose’, have hm make the sounds ‘n’, ‘o’, and ‘s’. Then have him put them together. Ask the child to touch his nose as he says the word. Have him copy you. Praise him, and make it a game.
illustration of the above: a woman and a child speaking.
Touch your NOSE.
N..o..s NOSE
8. Little by little, help the child learn more words and practice using them through games and daily activities. Have her learn her own name and the names of family and friends. Build up a word list. But do not try to go too fast. Take time to help her say a few words fairly clearly before going on to the next.

This page was updated:21 Nov 2019