Before First Words: Using Fun Sounds to Encourage Toddler Communication

Let’s make some noise.

Funny sounds, animal sounds, vehicle sounds, you name it!

For toddlers who aren’t talking yet or using words consistently, I usually start with getting them to make some sounds.

Then, I get them to make these sounds consistently.

I want the toddler to use these sounds intentionally, volitionally, in multiple settings, and with multiple communication partners.



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I touched upon this concept of using fun sounds in my post - 7 Ways to Get Your Toddler to Communicate.

Now, I’m going to elaborate on how to use sounds to encourage your toddler’s communication.

What do I mean by sounds?

Why don’t you try to figure it out with my, “Sound Challenge”.

Take 60 seconds and come up with a list of any sounds (particularly funny ones) that your toddler may hear on a daily basis.

…..60 Seconds later….

Here are some sounds that may have made your list:

  • Ooh

  • Ahhh

  • Ohhhh

  • Weee

  • Uh-oh!

  • Oops!

  • Huh?

  • Hmmm?

  • Mmmmm

  • Brrrr (it’s cold)

  • Mwah (kissing sound)

  • Cock a doodle doo!

  • Woof Woof

  • Meow

  • Chugga-Chugga

  • Choo Choo

  • Ouch!

  • Boom!

  • Achoo!

  • Ahhha (an audible yawn)

  • Hahaha

  • Hehehe

So, how do I use these sounds?

First, I pick 1, 2, or 3 sounds (all depends on the child) then bombard your child with the sounds.


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Strategically incorporate the sound(s) into a play routine, a daily routine, or when reading books together.

Structure the play routine so your toddler knows he has to say or attempt to say the sound at a certain point during the routine.

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For instance, if we’re doing the Trains play routine, pages 67 & 68, of My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child's Language Development, we’ll get into the flow of the trains going around the track.

First, the train moves slowly and then it goes faster as it picks up steam. As you or your toddler move the train, say, “Chugga chugga chugga choo choo” (or, just “Chugga Chugga” or “Choo Choo”). Incorporate sounds into your self-talk and parallel-talk.

Once the train is moving quickly, it may accidentally fall off the track, eliciting an “Oops” or “Uh-oh”.

What if you try these things and they’re not working?

  • Start with a sound that your child is already doing and get him to say the sound more and more.

  • If your child only says “uh” for “up”, then, incorporate it into a play routine where he has to say “Uh” or “Up” on command. There are many ways to encourage the final “p” (a speech language pathologist can help you). One way I like to encourage it is to put another word that starts with “p” in the initial position following the final “p” word. So, if Tiffany is only saying “uh” for “up” then I model “Up, please” or if we’re playing with the trains I may encourage “Up, Percy”.

    • By the way, this is Percy:

    • Also, make sure you’re giving your child enough time and providing enough repetitions of the modeled response. Children need a lot of repetition and practice.

    • You can also start with targeting early vowel sounds like:

      • “Uh”, “ah”, “ee”, “oo” , and “oh” (notice I have these on my sound list)

      • Pair the sound with a gesture or gross motor movement (large body movement). In the case of “No!” encourage the child to adamantly shake his head.

      • Lastly, when in doubt make sure you and your child are still having fun. Language learning should be fun.

For more Trouble Shooting Tips see pages 15 & 16 of My Toddler Talks: Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child's Language Development.

As always, I hope this has been helpful.

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