How to Teach the P Sound


The /p/ sound is the perfect sound to begin with for children who are highly unintelligible. It may be one of my very favorite sounds to teach because it is so visual and therefore can be taught quickly. As the child masters this sound it will build their confidence and make doing articulation drills more fun.

The very first thing you want to do is check to see if your child is stimulable. To be stimulable means your child can say the /p/ sound in direct imitation of you. If your child is stimulable that means you can move directly to syllables. If your child still needs a little help then we get to teach them how to make the sound. This part is fun!

How to Elicit/Teach the /p/ Sound:

The /p/ is made by bringing both lips together, and then releasing air in an explosive manner. When I introduce this sound to a child I hold a tissue in front of my mouth so as I say the /p/ sound they can watch the tissue move as a result of the air released while making the sound. Then we usually take turns making our tissue move or “dance” as I like to call it by making an over exaggerated /p/ sound. See me doing this with little Sawyer, in the video below.



Practice the /p/ Sound in Syllables:

Now that your child can say the /p/ sound lets make sure they can do it in syllables before we jump to the word cards. All you do is add the vowels a, e, i, o, and u to the /p/ sound. Practice saying syllables like, “Pooh, pee, pay, pie, po, and pa.” Once you feel good about those syllables try putting the /p/ sound at the end of syllables like, “ape, op, ope, ip, ipe, ap, up, upe, ep, and epe.” Then try putting the /p/ sound in the middle of syllables like, “appa, ippo, eppa, uppoo, ooppee…” When your child is successful with the syllables you are ready to put the /p/ sound on your words.

Practice the /p/ Sound in Words:

When practicing word cards I always like to practice the sound in one position of the word at a time (beginning, middle, or end). If you start with the /p/ sound in the beginning of words practice the cards below until you have at least 80% mastery, then practice those beginning /p/ words in sentences and finally in stories before practicing the /p/ sound in the middle position, or at the end of words.

You can find my word cards for the /p/ sound on the worksheets page.

Move the /p/ Sound Into Sentences:

When practicing the sound in sentences I like to use what is called a “rotating” sentence with young children. A rotating sentence is when the sentence stays the same and you change only the target word. I then pair the sentence with pictures so the preliterate child can read the sentence independently. I never worry that the sentence doesn’t always make sense. The child and I just say, “That doesn’t make sense,” and move on.

If your child can say the /p/ sound in the beginning of words then practice the initial /p/ sound in sentences. You may want to use a rotating sentence, for example “_________ on pink pig.” Fill in the blank with the initial /p/ words you have been practicing, “puppy on pink pig, or pepper on pink pig…”

If your child can say the /p/ sound at the end of words then practice the final /p/ sound in sentences. For example, “Pour _________ in cup.” Again filling in the blank with the final /p/ words you practiced.

If your child can say the /p/ sound well in the middle of words then practice the medial /p/ in sentences. For example, “Come puppy eat __________.”

You can find my sentences for the /p/ sound on the worksheets page.

Move the /p/ Sound into Stories

Create short stories with the picture cards you have been practicing. Have your child practice retelling them. For example, “Penny put her paints in her pink purse and took them to the party. At the party Penny painted a picture of a puppy on some paper…” Be creative with this, the most important thing is to create an opportunity for your child to get as much practice with the sounds as possible. Passing off this level may take a little longer then the previous steps. Be patient, the better your child does at these stories the more success your child will have at moving them into conversation.

You can find my /p/ stories on the worksheets page.

Move the /p/ Sound into Conversation

If your child still struggles with the sound in conversation reviewing the stories again may help. Calling attention to his errors in conversation at this point will also help. It is likely you may find that your child is self correcting all on his own. Most importantly, be positive. Be sure to let your children know how proud you are of their efforts and progress!

Good luck!


Heidi - Mommy Speech Therapy Heidi Hanks, M.S.CCC-SLP has been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2000. She graduated from Utah State University where she completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She began her career in early intervention and eventually started her own private practice where she has worked primarily with pre-K through school age kids. She is the founder of Little Bee Speech, and is currently developing apps for speech and language. Heidi lives in Utah with her husband and 4 children.


22 Responses to “How to Teach the P Sound”

  1. Nikki Henry says:

    Woo hoo! You are back!!

  2. Rina says:

    Glad to see posts again! My son has some facial paralysis and typically cannot make sounds like ‘p’ or ‘b’ or ‘m’, any sounds where you have to bring your lips together. I’m hoping we’ll be able to teach him to control the paralysis at some point!

    • Heidi says:

      Those bilabial sounds, sounds where you bring both lips together like /p/, /b/, and /m/, can be very difficult for people with facial paralysis or really low muscle tone. Exercises that strengthen the jaw and lips really help promote success with these sounds.

      • Judith Walsh says:

        Hi Heidi,
        Can you give some examples of exercises you recommend for children with really low tone who struggle with basic sounds such as P, B, and M?
        Thank you!

        • Heidi says:

          Hi Judith,

          For kids with really low tone just bringing the lips together for the /p/, /b/ and /m/ can be difficult. I would recommend you begin with exercises that promote lip awareness and strengthen lip closure. But even before that you need to make sure the child has good stability in the jaw and is able to move the jaw from a wide open mouth to a closed mouth posture easily (this is called jaw grading). Once the child has good jaw stability and grading and can move the lips independently of the jaw then you are ready to work on the /p/, /b/ and /m/ sounds.

          For exercises to work on jaw stability and grading I would recommend you consult the Speech Pathologist and/or Occupational Therapist you are working with. They may recommend bite blocks, chewy tubes or other various chewing exercises. You will also want to consult them for ideas on how to increase lip awareness and lip closure. They may recommend popping bubbles with the lips to increase lip awareness and drinking through straws or blowing horns or bubbles for working on lip closure.

          Some good web sites to check out with lots of therapy products for increasing oral motor awareness and strength include:

          ARK Theraputic
          Talk Tools

          I hope this helps.

          Best,
          Heidi

  3. Cristine says:

    This reminds me of an exercise I was doing with a client of mine the other day. We were practicing sight words and when the word “up” came around she would just say “uh.” So I looked at her and said “uP” making the /p/ sound loudly, making my lips vibrate, almost making a little raspberry noise. She started giggling, she found the /p/ so amusing! For the rest of the afternoon she kept saying “UP” in the same way I said it. Now, she says /p/ correctly!

  4. Stephanie says:

    My son says the P sound great, the problem is he can/will not use the F sound. We have tried everything to get him to make the F sound and have had no luck. He replaces the F sound with a P sound constantly, “pireworks,” “pace” (face), “pancy,” “pingers” (fingers). Is this normal? Should I look into getting him assessed? I wanted to email you but couldn’t find a link. Thanks! This website is great!!!

    • Heidi says:

      Stephanie,

      Substituting the /p/ sound for the /f/ sound is a normal substitution for small children when they are beginning to talk. As far as what age they should be saying it correctly varies from study to study. Some studies say that 90% of children have the /f/ sound mastered by the age of 3, other say 3 1/2, one says 4, and another says as late as 5 1/2. Before I took my son in for an evaluation I would first consider his age, how intelligible he is, meaning how much of what he says in understandable, and what other speech errors he might have. If my 3 year old only has difficulty saying the /f/ sound then I would probably continue to try to help him from home. If my child is 5 and he can’t say the /f/ sound, and maybe has difficulty with some other sounds as well I would probably have him assessed.

      I hope this helps!

  5. Hollie says:

    My son is saying pway instead of play? Any advice? He is 5 starting k in the fall. He is also saying dhe instead of the.
    Thanks

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Hollie,

      It sounds like your son is struggling with the TH sounds and L blends like /pl/. At his age it is not that uncommon. You can ask to talk to the speech pathologist once school starts and see if he/she can offer any support in correcting those sounds. You can also try my tips on “How to Teach the TH Sound” on my blog. And who knows, if all my children behave maybe I can post some L blend worksheets on my site soon.

      Best of luck!
      Heidi

  6. Amy says:

    My son is 16 months and is not using the /b/, /d/, /m/ sounds. For example, he says aye! for hi/bye, ah-ee for Daddy, and ahm for Mom. He doesn’t babble, but hums a lot. We have an appointment for an Early Intervention assessment (and are also on a waiting list for a private speech therapist). Is there anything I can do in the mean time to help him? I took your advice about sippy cups and while it is taking a while, we are transitioning him to a straw cup. He was tongue-tied and we had it corrected at 6 weeks old, but breastfeeding was still a failure. Transitioning him from a bottle to a sippy around 10-11 months was very difficult. Is it possible he has low muscle tone? Are there toning exercises for 16 month olds?

    • Heidi says:

      Amy,

      It sounds like you are on the right track. Early intervention and private therapy will be great for him. To answer your question, yes it is possible he may have low muscle tone. It is also possible that it may be something else entirely. That is where Early Intervention and private therapy will come into play. They should be able to assess your son and give you an idea of what may be causing the speech delay. If it is low muscle tone they will give you some exercises that will increase his muscle tone and improve his speech. In the meantime, the best place to start your little guy is with turn-taking and imitation games. Read my post “Using Turn-Taking & Imitation to Encourage Communication” for ideas on how to get your son to start imitating new sounds like the /b/ and /d/ sounds in play and eventually in words. Best of luck!

  7. Jennifer says:

    Really good ideas for stimulating /p/. Have a child for therapy who is backing most bilabial and palatal sounds. Tried using a mirror to stimulate /p/, but this didn’t work, will try the tissue ‘dancing’ idea!! Any other ways of doing it would be appreciated!

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Jennifer,

      I hope you have success with the “tissue dance,” it usually works for me. I have also had success with having the child feel the explosive release of air on their hands, or shaping it from an /h/ sound. You may also try having the child work on lip exercises to strengthen lip closure then follow the pursed lips with an /h/ sound. Let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear what ended up working for you.

      • Jennifer says:

        Hi,

        i think its an artic problem now, he can say /m/, but can’t produce /p/, with the tissue dance, he did lip closure, as for /m/, but then said [k]!! i will continue with trying /p/ production for another week, but i think i’ll have to leave it then, maybe he’s not stimulable yet

        • Heidi says:

          Jennifer,

          See if you can get him to blow up his cheeks and hold it. When he releases the air it should come out like a /p/ sound. If this doesn’t work either, you may be right, he may not be stimulable yet. Try working on another sound and then come back to the /p/ and try again. Sometimes a little time, or success on another sound can make all the difference.

          Keep us updated!

  8. Liz says:

    Thanks for the great ideas and picture cards! I am working with a little girl who is almost 3 and she makes /p/ perfectly in isolation and initially but consistently backs with a /k/ sound in the final position (i.e., “pok” instead of “pop”, “uk” for “up”). She is a hard worker but I haven’t see much progress in trying to make that final /p/ sound. We’ve worked on stringing words together (pop-pop-pop) so the initial runs together with the final as well but she seems to get frustrated or loses interest. Any ideas?

    • Heidi says:

      Liz,

      Have you tried just pausing between the vowel and the consonant? For example, “u-p.” Then use a hand gesture to prompt the “p” sound. After several successful repetitions slowly work toward blending the vowel with the /p/ sound.

      One way to work on blending the sounds is to say the /p/ sound when clapping your hands together. Then, after the concept of saying the /p/ sound is mastered while clapping, pull your hands all the way apart and while bringing them slowly together say the vowel sound. For example, “Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.” Then when the hands actually make contact say the /p/ sound. Stretching the vowel when proceeding a consonant like, “Uuuuuuuuuuuup” has proved to be a good trick when I work on blending sounds.

      I hope these ideas help. Let us know how it goes.

  9. Sarah says:

    I just want to say thank you so much for this website. My boys have been struggling with speech for 5 years. I have been asking their school therapist for at home work and they aren’t interested in helping. You have saved the day and given me hope that I can help my boys. Thank you!!!!

  10. Nancy says:

    I have a client that puts a /t/ at the end instead of /p/ sound e.g. pot for pop or ut for up
    any suggestions as to how to correct this?
    also any tricks for the final /m/ and final /b/ sounds ?
    Thanks so much!!!

    • Heidi says:

      I would start by showing showing your client the letter “p” and asking him what sound the “p” makes. If he/she doesn’t know, teach him it says /p/. Use a hand cue (put your hand next to your mouth in a fist and then open your fingers quickly to show the explosive way air is released for the /p/ sound) while making the /p/ sound. Have him repeat that. Then take the “p” card you have created and put it on the right side of your practice cards and tell him that after you say each word you are going to end it with the /p/ sound (pointing to the “p” card after each practice card). If he makes the /t/ sound and then follows it with the /p/ sound you might explain that his tongue is not invited to this party, you only want to see his lips moving. Then carefully select your practice cards, be sure not to include any words that have alveolar sounds (t, d, n, s) in them. Get your tissue out and place it in front of his mouth, then tell him you want to see the tissue fly after each of his words. If he still adds a /t/ sound you may try giving him a cheerio and having him hold it in place below his front teeth while making the sound. If these ideas don’t work, don’t give up just get creative. You’ll think of something. :)

      For suggestions on teaching the /m/ sound you may be interested in my post, “How to Teach the M Sound.” I’d be careful when teaching the final /b/ sound, because it will often result in the addition of a schwa vowel at the end. Maybe teach the /b/ sound in the other positions, then teach the final /p/ sound and hopefully the final /b/ sound will come on its own.

      Hopefully this helps! I’d love to hear how it goes and what finally works.

      Heidi