Your child should make the /m/ sound an addition to his or her speech by the time they reach two years old. However, don’t be surprised if you hear this sound pop up in your child’s verbal communication long before. Infants begin using this noise or at least attempting it at such a young age because it is produced by moving the lips together, one of the first motor skills we develop.
How is it elicited?
Bringing your lips together is only part of the process of making the /m/ sound. Along with the /n/ sound, /m/ is considered a “nasal” speech sound because it is produced by releasing one’s breath stream through the nose.
When you teach your child to make this sound, first make an overstated /m/ sound and encourage your child to imitate you. This will help you gauge his or her stimulability—ability to directly imitate a sound—and draw attention to any problem areas in their
articulation of the sound.
Letting your child physically feel the /m/ sound may encourage and improve imitation. Allow your child to place his hand over your lips while you produce this sound. Draw attention to the vibrations he will feel and ask him to imitate these movements.
If your child is more a visual learner, ask him to sit in front of a mirror while he practices the /m/ sound. He should be able recognize when his lips are not fully pressed together. If he fails to notice, don’t be afraid to correct him. Don’t assume that your child will eventually self-correct on his own. Just remember to maintain a positive and encouraging role in speech development.
Unlike shorter sounds like /p/ or /b/, /m/ is a lingering sound like /s/. During articulation lessons, be sure to emphasize that this is a sound that should be held out for longer than others. One visual learning technique that specialists suggest is sitting in front of your child, palms face down in your lap. As you produce the /m/ sound, move your hands from your thighs to your knees. This will provide a visual means from which your child can judge how long the /m/ sound should last when they produce it.
Some young children’s muscle tone in their lips may not be developed enough to properly articulate the /m/ sound. If you feel this is the case with your child, simple practice drills exist that will help develop these muscles.
One of the easiest of these drills is the repetition of simple syllables beginning with the /m/ sound such as “ma, me, my, and mow.” Once you feel your child has mastered this drill and he has a healthy confidence with the articulation of this sound, try challenging him by choosing syllables where the /m/ sound appears at the beginning or the end. Remember, consistent and correct practice makes for perfect articulation.
If you are concerned with your child’s speech or language development, please contact Chicago Speech Therapy by clicking on the “Contact Karen” button on the upper right section of this page. Your online inquiry should be responded to within 30 minutes.
Karen George is a Chicago speech-language pathologist. Karen is a founding member and the current leader of Chicago Speech Therapists Connect, a group of Chicago-area speech-language pathologists. As of Jan 2012, the Chicago Speech Therapists group contained over 400 members. The private pediatric speech therapy practice Karen founded, Chicago Speech Therapy, LLC, provides in-home pediatric speech therapy in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Karen and her team of Chicago speech therapists have a reputation for ultra-effective speech therapy and work with a variety of speech disorders. Karen is the author of several books such as A Parent’s Guide to Speech and Language Milestones, A Parent’s Guide to Articulation, A Parent’s Guide to Speech Delay, A Parent’s Guide to Stuttering Therapy, and A Parent’s Guide to Pediatric Feeding Therapy. She is often asked to speak and has addressed audiences at Children’s Memorial and Northwestern University. Karen is highly referred by many Chicago-area Pediatricians and elite schools.