By 12 months, a baby is typically able to say both “Mama” and “Dada” already. But did you know that some babies have a harder time making the “m” sound than the “d” sound? Your little one might actually be trying to say “Mama” but might not have the sound yet. How can you tell if your baby needs some help with the “m” sound? Listen to them babble. If they don’t make the “m” sound when babbling, I have some tips that I’ll share at the end to help your baby or toddler learn to make this important sound.
If your toddler doesn’t say “Mama” yet, I have some fun ways you can model this word to make sure your child gets lots of exposure to it so they can mimic it. I used these strategies with my own little ones and got them saying “Mama” in no time!
- Refer to Yourself as “Mama,” and Get Your Partner to do the Same
Try to do this all day, every day, even if it feels weird! For instance, when eating a snack with your child, you could point to your snack and say, “That’s Mama’s apple!” Or say, “Mama’s here!” when you enter the room.
Explain the value of this process to your partner, so they can reinforce the repetition when they’re with your child. They could say things like, “Where’s Mama?” or “Oh! I hear Mama. Mama’s coming!”
- Print Out and Label Photos of Yourself
You could laminate the photos to make them last longer, or buy a simple photo album from the drugstore or dollar store. Put the pictures of yourself in your child’s play area (e.g., in a basket on their toy shelf). When your child discovers the picture, model pointing at the picture and saying, “Mama!” You can also tap your chest and repeat the word.
- Mama Peekaboo
During a game of peekaboo, swap out the word “peekaboo” for “Mama.” Hold a blanket in front of your face and say, “Where’s Mama?” Lower the blanket, and with a big smile and animated voice say, “Mama!”
- Mama Hide and Seek
You will need your partner to help out with this one. Just like in traditional hide and seek, you’ll hide in a pretty obvious spot so that your child can find you fairly quickly and not lose interest in the game (e.g., behind the couch, around the corner, etc.). Your partner will look for you with your child and can model calling out for you. For instance, your partner could cup their hands by their mouth and call out, “Mama! Where are you, Mama?”
When your child finds you, your partner can point at you and say, “Mama!” You can jump out and say, “You found Mama!” Give your little one a big hug or tickles or whatever they like. Making this process fun for both you and your child will help everyone relax, and help your child enjoy using new words.
- Wake-up Mama Call
When your child wakes up in the morning or from a nap, you can model how you would like them to call for you. As you walk in the room, open the door and say, “Mama! Mama’s here!” before picking up your baby or toddler. This strategy is particularly effective because you can use it multiple times throughout the day.
Tips to Help Your Child Make the “M” Sound
For young children who might have difficulty with the “m” sound, my two favorite ways to encourage this sound are easy to incorporate into your everyday routines.
First, during meals when your child’s lips are already closed on a spoon, model the sound for them. Really elongate the “mmmm” with an animated face to get them excited about mimicking you. Their lips are already in the right position, and, as a bonus, it’s functional and appropriate to make this sound during meals to show how yummy the food is!
Second, lengthen the “mmmm” sound and point to your lips while you’re doing it to draw your child’s attention to the shape your lips are making. You can even say things like, “ Look! Mama’s lips are closed…..mmmm.”
Want More Easy-to-Use Strategies to Help Your Toddler Talk More?
If you want more details on the strategies outlined above, please check out my YouTube video here. When using these strategies, don’t worry if your little one doesn’t mimic the “m” sound or say “Mama” right away! We’re giving them lots and lots of exposure to the sounds and words they need to communicate with us. Don’t give up!
Want to encourage your child to use more words at home but aren’t sure where to start? Feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to focus on your toddler’s vocabulary on top of everything else? Sign up for my free class. You’ll have access to my proven method to get your baby or toddler to mimic you and say more words while doing the things you’re already doing!
I can’t wait to meet you!