How to Get Your Child to Imitate Sounds and Words

Bridget Hillsberg
May 10, 2020

At Speech Sisters we want you to know that the best way to get your baby making various speech sounds is for you to get eye to eye and model it! This way, your little one can see your mouth and hear the sound/word at the same time! We even recommend a hands-on approach so that your baby can also feel the vibration of the sound or feel a puff of air depending on the sound that you are making. We call this the TRIFECTA… SEE the sound, HEAR the sound, and FEEL the sound. ⠀

WHEN should I start using this method?

You can really start as early as you would like, in fact, we recommend directing your child’s attention to your mouth early on! This way they can see how you articulate sounds/words and they may even attempt to copy you (most babies will start imitating around 6-9 months of age)! Imitation is SO critical in building language and exactly why it is the first tip we focus on in our evidence-based ITALK technique from our Talk On Track Online course. We find that babies will respond best to this strategy around 12 months when their receptive language skills are stronger and they are starting to follow very simple commands.  When my baby girl was around 12 months old and began following simple directions, I would tell her, “Look at my (mama's) mouth (as I point to my mouth).” She would then look directly at my mouth and I would then say the sound or simple word. Typically, she would try to mimic at least the sound, if not the word I said.

WILL my baby be able to imitate every sound I make?

It would be amazing if babies could produce all the sounds at once,  but speech sounds are not all acquired at the same time. Some sounds will be mastered early and other sounds are not expected to be perfected until after kindergarten. ⠀⠀So what are the earliest developing sounds? The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association states that the following sounds are first to emerge between 1-2 years old: b, p, m, d, n, h, followed by t, k, g, w, ng, f, and y, which are typically mastered by the age of 3 years old. ⠀Many times we hear our babies experimenting with these sounds early on during a good babble session! We teach you exactly how to encourage your baby to keep making these sounds and how to move them from babbling into words in our online course called, Talk On Track.⠀

WHAT should I do to get my baby to imitate me?

  1. Get face on so that you can direct your child’s attention to your mouth in order for them to see how you articulate!
  2. Once you are facing each other, try getting their little hand near or on your face so they can feel the sound in addition to hearing it and seeing it. This trifecta will help them master these sounds!
  3. Another great way to help your baby master these speech sounds is to exaggerate the sound or word (Say "shhhhhhoe" or "mmmmoon").
  4. Finally, don’t be afraid to raise your pitch or intonation when talking.  Research shows that this helps babies stay focused for a longer duration of time, which allows for more language learning opportunities!

Remember, as with everything, repetition is key! The more you use this strategy the quicker your baby will catch up and start imitating you!⠀

To learn simple and effective strategies to help get your little one talking, check out our Talk on Track (newborn-14 months) and Time to Talk: Toddler Course (15-36 months). We’d love to equip you to experience the joy of your little one talking to you!

Bridget Hillsberg
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