Language skills targets for babies and toddlers: 6. Animal sounds

Apr 3, 2016

A very common group of early ‘words’ for children are animal sounds: moo, baa, neigh, woof… It might seem silly to try to teach these words to your little one but it’s honestly a wonderful way to encourage talking! Find out why, and how in this post.

animal sounds

My kids are growing up in a city and don’t have contact with farm animals in their daily lives, but animal sounds were among their first words. Why? Well, it seems kids just like animals, so animal names and sounds are great first words targets. Plus the sounds are easy to make. After all, animals aren’t great talkers! Getting kids to imitate sounds is an important first step into language, so anything that makes it easier helps, especially for kids with a speech delay.

But above all, making animal sounds is silly! It’s funny to pretend to be a cow, and kids respond to that playfulness. They learn that words and talking are fun!

Just think how we act when we play with animal sounds. We draw out a single word or sound, like mooooo! We’re very expressive and simple. This is great for babies and toddlers who are learning to use single words. Instead of bombarding them with paragraphs of speech, we’re using a sound they can pick out and copy.

So now you’re convinced, what can you do to encourage your little one to understand and use animal sounds? Here are some ideas to kick off the fun. You can make animal sounds when:

1. Reading picture books with animals in them to your child, naming the animals, then making the sound.

2. Playing with toy animals, including soft toys and toy farm creatures… Draw a very young one in by gently moving a toy animal up their arms or legs as you make the sound. Or play peekaboo with the animal, hiding it inside your top, or your child’s, or behind a curtain etc, then popping it out as it makes its funny sound.

3. Doing simple pretend games, acting out animal movements and sounds (in the early stages, it might help to have a picture or toy to show your child what you’re talking about!)

4. Doing puzzles with animal pieces.

5. Singing. ‘Old MacDonald’ is a classic animal sounds song. Or sing your own animal sound song to the tune of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’, e.g. ‘The cow on the farm goes moo, moo, moo’ or, ‘The snake in the zoo goes ssssssss’ etc.

6. Visiting a farm or zoo. Well, obviously, this is a great time to share fun animal noises! If you’ve got a child-friendly farm or zoo local to you have a fun outing together, then reinforce the experience by sharing animal-themed books and play at home.

Children’s toys, books, clothing and room decorations commonly have animals on them, so there are lots of opportunities for repetition and simple, day-to-day fun making these easy starter sounds.

The next post is going to be a big one: First Words! I hope you’ll join me as we really get talking! Check out the rest of the language targets series here, and my book for effective strategies to get your little one talking, and hundreds of fun playtime activities to share.


This post is shared at Practical Mondays.

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