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How to help your child with pronunciation – Part 2

mom pronouncing sounds with her baby

Key points:
1. Consonant pronunciation development is crucial for speech and academic success.
2. Alveolar consonants (t, d, n) are among the first sounds children master; practice helps with tongue movements.
3. Bilabial consonants (p, b, m) involve lip movements; “b” vibrates vocal cords, unlike “p.”
4. Other consonants like “y” (palatal) and “k” or “g” (velar) develop later; practice and language exposure are key.

In Part 1 of this article, we briefly referred to the process of pronunciation. Now, we want to explain in more detail the most common consonants that your child will work on between his 18 and 36 months.

Around 19 months, your child might begin to pronounce the “m” as a beginning sound, and then continue with “p”, and so on. Let’s take a look at the type of articulation each one represents. Keep reading to learn more.

Alveolar consonants: t, d & n

These will be some of the first consonants your little one will pronounce. In an alveolar consonant, the tongue tip approaches or touches the ridge immediately behind the upper teeth, known as the alveolar ridge. Your little one has to raise their tongue and touch the hard area behind the teeth, without touching them.

To help them improve their pronunciation of “t” and “d”, have them practice this movement with the tongue to strengthen it, while pronouncing the letter. Make sure they understand it’s located right behind the teeth. Some scientists state that without emitting language sounds the exercise is not as effective.

The difference when pronouncing “t” and “d” lies in the vibration of vocal cords when pronouncing. For them to be aware of the difference, ask them to place their hand over their throat and try to recognize the difference when pronouncing “d” and “t”. If they are not able to pronounce them yet, don’t worry. You can have them practice with your throat while you talk. It’ll be hard not to laugh!

You can also try changing beginning sounds. Tell them a word and ask them if they can change the beginning sound. For example, ask if they can say “dime”, repeat it several times to make sure the pronunciation is right, and then ask them to change the “d” for a “t”. They will be practicing pronunciation, while also working on phonemic awareness and spending time together. You can also work on basic babbling sequences like “da-da-da”, using big up-and-down jaw movements. Repetition will help them improve their skill.

For the letter “n”, the tongue needs to touch the alveolar ridge or hard palate, while blowing air from your nose. You can have a little game to see who is blowing more air through the nose, while pronouncing the sound of letter “n”.

Bilabial consonants: p, b & m

In a bilabial consonant, the lower and upper lips approach or touch each other when making the sound. In this group, “b” and “p” are pretty alike; to pronounce them your little one will need to close their lips and then release the air by opening them. As it happens with “t” and “d”, your vocal cords will vibrate only with letter “b”, so in this case you can repeat the throat exercise, to help your kid identify the difference.

Another idea you can try to keep practicing is playing “mirror”. Place yourself face to face with your little one and explain that in this game they have to copy everything you do. Exactly like a reflection, start to pronounce the “p” and repeat it while they imitate you, then proceed to “b”. Exaggerate your pronunciation, so they can see the difference between the two sounds and practice it while imitating you.


For the letter “m”, close your lips and blow air from your nose simultaneously. Explain to your little one that the most common error when pronouncing “m” is not closing the lips. You can repeat the air blowing exercise used for “n”.

Palatal: y

One of the first palatal consonants your little one will pronounce will probably be “y” as a beginning sound. This can happen when they are around 28 months old.

The articulation of this consonant happens when the body of the tongue touches the hard palate. They might start to use words like “yes” or “yeah”. You can set an example of how to use these words very early on and model the pronunciation. Have them practice! Ask questions that you know they will have to answer with an affirmation; if they use gestures invite them to elaborate with words.

You can also implement “yeah” as a celebration. When something very exciting happens you can both scream “yeah!” while holding your arms up in the air; this can even become your little tradition!

Velar consonants: k & g

These ones might appear later on, at around 30 months old. Regarding articulation and movement, “k” and “g” are very similar. They are called velar consonants because, in this case, the body of the tongue approaches the soft palate that is located in the back, or velum, while building pressure inside the mouth and releasing it by a sudden lowering of the tongue.

The difference between “k” and “g” consists in the vibration of the vocal cords. To help your little one notice this, you can repeat the same exercise of touching their throat. You can also give them some words to practice together. For example, if they like animals, you can choose “koala” and “gorilla” and have them use them in a sentence. This way you are not only working on his pronunciation, but also in language production and even memory!

Labiodental consonant: f

This type of consonant is one of the last ones to appear, before moving to more complex consonants. You might notice your little one using “f” when they are around 33 months old. This is a pretty straightforward consonant; it’s articulated when the lower lip approaches or touches the upper teeth.

You can work on this with your little one with the “mirror” game. Remember to exaggerate the gestures, so they can analyze with detail how to imitate the movement of teeth and lip.

Most of all, expose them to all kinds of language. Talk to them, read bedtime stories, and have enriched conversations. Recent reviews of different speech therapists show that there’s no real proof of a connection between exercises of lip and tongue movement and the improvement of speech; this improvement appears only with practice.

Have fun doing some of these games and stay close to your little one during this amazing process!

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