Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Moo Baa La: How Animal Sounds Can Help Your Child Talk

As a pediatric speech-language therapist, I often spend my days mooing. And baaing, too.  Although it might seem strange, there's a reason that I do this, and it's not the one you might first suspect.  Yes, children like animal sounds and yes, it can be fun to get children smiling by making silly sounds that don't normally come out of adult mouths. But there's more than that. The secret behind animal sounds is simple: most animal sounds are easy for kids to make. Combine that with the fact that young children are often fascinated by animals and you've got an easy way into helping children produce some of their first "words."

Yesterday, I wrote a post about speech sound development in children.  In it, I discussed which speech sounds are easiest for young children (vowels, p, m, h, n, w, b, t, d) and which syllable shapes tend to come first in speech development (CV = consonant-vowel).  Combine the two and you get...animal sounds! Moo. Baa. Neigh. Meow.  All easy, all fun, and all powerful ways to help a young child start talking.

Once you realize the power of animal sounds, it's easy to integrate them into your day to help your little one start mooing, too. You can simply make the sound when you see an animal.  You can say the word, too, of course (Cow! Moo!  The sillier you make the sound, the better!). Do this while looking at books, coloring pictures, watching TV, or just playing around. If you have little animal toy figures around the house, you can pair your actions with words by making the animal walk while saying the animal sound repeatedly.   Your child is likely to follow both your actions and your words when you put them both together. You might also want to learn the sign for each animal and do the sign while you say the sound-- again, the power lies in giving your child both an action to imitate and a sound that goes with it.

What's more, animal sounds are readily present in a number of repetitive books and songs. Old MacDonald, of course, is an oldy (pardon the pun) but a goody. And Sandra Boynton has a great book entitled Moo Baa La La La that many kids love to read.

Although animals sounds might not seem like actual words, they can help children learn to associate a simple sound with an actual object or picture. Because the sounds are easy to say, children are more likely to imitate them. This success, in turn, helps them make the jump to 'real' words.  So don't hold back: moo, baa, and neigh away!


  1. My kid and his younger friends in children's choir love to sing a cute song called "All God's Children got a place in the Choir" where they imitate several animal sounds. I can see how that could be a great way to encourage little ones to talk!


    (Mom Loop Friday Comment Follow)

  2. I loving hearing itty bitty children making animal sounds. My nephew said every animal said "Meow" for the longest time.

  3. Good idea. We're working with our daughter who is from India and has only been speaking English for a few years. She is struggling with certain sounds "v," "th" and some others. She's brilliant and learning so quickly, but the details are difficult. We'll start speech therapy soon to see if that will help, but maybe we could start singing animal songs first. :-)

  4. I just ordered my daughter a book of Mother's Gooses rhymes and now I must look for an Old McDonald. I rarely sing this to her for some reason but starting tonight we will make it part of the nighty night ritual. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Thanks for the tip. I taught my girls animals sounds early on. Good to know they help with speech development too!

  6. Yay! Glad you all found the post helpful! Can I get a mooo? ;)

  7. You write in such a parent-friendly way! I will definitely share this with families that I work with. Thanks!

  8. My two year old has a speech delay and we are just starting with his session twice a week for 30 minutes with a SLP....I am going to be Mooing, baaing....all day, every day until he gets it....he is a stubborn little boy...he will only imitate the sounds when he wants to!!!! Thanks for the tip!!!

    1. I am just reading this now - we have the same issue with our two year old! He can def make the noises - but most of the time he will only make them when prompted. So frusterating - I dont hear much independent babble at all. 18 months later - how is your sone progressing?

  9. Brilliant. use it in ABA and often have the most success with first words...I know tons of kids whose first word was MOOOOOO!