How to teach your toddler to imitate sounds


When I am working with a little one on sound production…I find that one of my first jobs is to get them to understand the phrase “you do“….now these two words can be a little bit abstract for a little one…and when I say little I mean a child between about 18 months and up (24 months, 25 months, 26 months, 27 months).  And a lot depends of course on receptive and cognitive skills…meaning how well your little one will actually understand the direction: “you do“. 

So…what I do first…is have the little one follow a  YOU DO directive during play…and I love the magna-doodle to address this…I will refer to the three pictures above…in reference to following a direction..and also in the imitation of sounds.  I also should say that this specific activity addresses your little one’s ability to say the B sound…and I have found that the cues I use….with the magna-doodle….along with the tactile cues….work really well to help with sound production. 

The point to this post…and what I want you to understand is that little ones have a hard time in understanding that you want them to imitate a sound.  You can not just say: Say Ba….or Say Ball….understanding the word SAY is complex and abstract….so my goal is to help the little one I am working with to understand the phrase “YOU DO“….because once I get them to understand this phrase…ooooo…then maybe they will understand YOU DO when it comes to a verbal directive.

So….during free play…I say YOU DO quite often….meaning if we are playing with a little figure and I make the figure go down the slide….I would then pass the figure to the little one…and ask her to make the little figure go down the slide by saying: YOU DO….as I pass her the figure and the slide. 

I also have the Fisher Price Ball Popper…a fave of mine!!!! the kids love it!!!….and we take turns pushing the little mushroom head to make the balls start popping….and after my turn is over…I pass it to the little one and say: YOU DO!….they sure do understand this because they LOVE this game.

Okay….so in reference to the three pictures above…..the first one is a circle…I make the circle….and as I am drawing the circle….I say: WEEEEEEEEEE…just to tie a sound with my action….then I pass the magna-doodle to the little one (first I erase the circle I made)….and say to her: YOU DO.  Now, initially I may just get her attempting to draw the circle….with NO sound…..but EVENTUALLY….I hear the sound attached with the action….I also should say that when I am making the circle and saying WEEEEE….I may go around the circle a few times.

Next….in reference to the second picture…..we are about to make a cookie…and the kids know this after we have played it a few times….so we add the chocolate chips…and as I use the pen from the magna-doodle…and I press on the board to make the chips….I am saying the B sound…..I also like to give some input to the little one’s lips….so she can feel that the B sound is a sound that is made with her two lips……so what do you do?:

Take your thumb and pointer finger…put the pads of your finger on her upper and lower lip…so your thumb is under her lower lip…and your pointer is above her upper lip.

Next help with lip closure…bring lips together..

Then as you produce voice…meaning you are making the B sound…help to bring lips apart.

This is a really great cue…it gives input to the upper and lower lips.

Now remember you are giving her this tactile cue with your fingers…to her lips….however…YOU ARE making the  B sound….and YOU are putting the chocolate chips on the cookies.


I hand the magna-doodle to her….I erase the cookie….I make the circle….and hand her the pen….I make one chip…say the B sound…and say to her: YOU DO.

Very exciting when she begins to understand this phrase YOU DO…and that you want her to imitate sound production.

Finally…..I make a big OVAL around the cookie…and say: AHHHHH as I am making the oval…kind of like I am about to eat the cookie….then I pass the magna-doodle to her….I erase the picture…make the cookie (with the chips too)…and start the OVAL…I say: AHHHH as I am starting the OVAL…then I pass to her…and say: YOU DO.


This activity has worked very well for me…the kids love it….oh…and I forgot…after we are all done….I pretend that we ate all of the cookies….and say: Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum….and rub my belly……this seems to make them giggle.

You may vary this activity…do what works for you when you are drawing with your little one….remember the goal is for your little one to understand: YOU DO….and to use the graphic cues in conjunction with the tactile cues…to help with sound production.

Hope this was helpful.

You can look under my articulation page for a B worksheet if you are working on this sound.

Have fun!







About Kim

My name is Kim Marino and I have been practicing as a licensed speech and language pathologist since 1993. I work on Long Island providing diagnostic evaluations and services to children from birth to age 21. My experience is vast and am proud to say that I work with children that may present with articulation and phonological concerns, oral motor feeding concerns, Down Syndrome feeding, cognitive rehabilitation, auditory processing delays, receptive language delays, cleft palate feeding and sound development and expressive language delays. Most importantly, I am the mother of four amazing children and am happily married to my childhood sweetheart. I feel blessed to have my four children and so lucky to share this journey in life with my husband. I always had it somewhere in my head that I wanted to develop a blog or a website of some sort so that I could provide families with an additional that parents could help their little ones become a better communicator. And as I was developing this blog....I realized that I also needed to share the stories about my life and my children....and the funny things along the way that help to keep me smiling. Whether you are a working mother or not...finding balance between home, children and life can be a challenge....I hope that my blog helps to bring a smile to your face..and also some tools to help you help your little or big one. I hope you enjoy! Kim
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