What is Devoicing/Voicing? Tips and Tricks: /P/ and /B/ Sounds (With Free Boom Cards!)


Phonological Process: Voicing and Devoicing

Phonological processes are patterns of errors that are considered age appropriate for a period of time as children develop speech and articulation skills.  Once a child has reached a certain age, these patterns are no longer considered age appropriate or “normal”.  When this happens, you can work with your child at home on these and you can also consider having them evaluated and treated by a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).  You can read more about phonological processes here.  

One type of phonological process is voicing (or vocalization). This occurs when a child turns their voice on when it should be off (example: using a “B” sound in place of a “P” sound.  “I want bobcorn” instead of “I want popcorn”).  Another type of phonological process is devoicing.  This occurs when a child turns their voice off when it should be on (example “the dog is pig” instead of “the dog is big”). 

There are a couple of ways to work on this process: you could treat whichever sound/phoneme is being pronounced incorrectly by itself.  You could also use minimal pairs.  Minimal pairs are words that are nearly identical, with the exception of the sounds you need the child to target or hear.  Sometimes children can distinctly hear the difference between errors in other people, but not in themselves.  This may cause them to get frustrated.  If this happens, I encourage parents and providers to make therapy and practice as fun as possible. 

Here is a list of minimal pairs you might use for either voicing or devoicing for phonemes /P/ and /B/:

Pea Bee
Pie Bye
Pay Bay
Peg Beg
Pig Big
Peach Beach
Patch Batch
Park Bark
Pack Back
Pest Best
Pear Bear
Punch Bunch

I’ve created a game on Boom Learning that allows children to practice listening to the difference between these sounds.  They can interact with a parent or therapist while they play…or they can have the audio automatically play while they have fun feeding pictures of target words to Gusgus the dog. You can preview the game by clicking on the image below.     

Now I will provide some tips and tricks for targeting /P/ and /B/ separately. This is something you can work on with your child at home (and in therapy with a qualified speech provider).  

There are several levels of teaching sounds: isolation (only the sound), at the word level (ex.”pop”), in phrases (ex. “pop bubbles”), sentences (“I see blue popcorn.”), and finally in conversation.  

This may take some time.  This is normal.  Try to be patient and don’t put too much pressure on your kiddo.  

Isolation Level

One way to practice /P/ vs /B/ is modeling where your lips go and either turning the voice off (for /P/) or on (for /B/).  Some kids can do the /P/ and /B/ sounds right away when you do this…some cannot. If they can’t quite do it yet, don’t worry.  Keep practicing. 

Tips and tricks:
1) First…get the lips into position.
2) show them and tell them how to turn their voice on or off.  If they have a hard time, keep practicing, use a mirror for lip placement, let them feel your neck or their neck for the voice vibration, and be patient. 
3) If they are voicing a /P/ sound by mistake, you could have them try it in a whisper to turn their voice off.

Just before the word level comes syllables.  This is where you add in a vowel.  Examples: po, pea, paa, ap, ip, eep OR bo, bee, baa, ab, ib, eeb.  

Word Level

Once we’ve got isolation and syllables down, we can move to practicing in words. Some kids do better starting at the beginning of the word, some do better with the middle or end of the word.  You can determine this by trying some words.  I often start with kids where they are successful (this may sound backwards…but saying sounds wrong can get frustrating, so kids are excited when they get them right).  In speech therapy, we call this “stimulability” (if a child is “stimulable” for a sound….they are saying it right! yay!).  

Beginning Words (Initial Position)

  • Initial P: pig, pizza, pool, P, paint, panda, pen, pencil, peek, pants, penny, pets, party, pickle, pictures, puzzle, peach, pot, pie, pear
  • Initial B: ball, bear, book, bat, big, boy, bubble, bed, B, bath, bite, bird, box, buzzer, bake, bags, backpack, bowl, bananas, boat

Middle Words (Medial Position)

  • Medial P: puppies, paper, happy, popcorn, pepper, purple, apple, popsicle, puppet, backpack, paperclip, pepperoni, teapot, hippo, pumpkin, pineapple, sleepy, superhero, cupcake, grapes
  • Medial B: rubber, bubble, wobble, gobble, teddy bear, gumballs, birdbath, baby, sandbox, toolbox, mailbox, bookbag, sailboat, basketball, table, rabbit, rainbow, blueberry, hamburger, tuba

Ending Words (Final Position)

  • Final P: pup, cup, top, stop, pop, up, soap, raindrop, jump, nap, drop, soup, chip, tape, sheep, mop, dump, zip, hoop, hop
  • Final B: tub, dab, globe, tab, cab, tube, web, crab, bulb, scrub, bib, cob, lab, sob, cub, rub, sub, robe, cube, earlobe

Once you figure out which of these positions is easiest, practice those words.  You can model the sounds for your child, emphasizing the part with /P/ or /B/ in them…cheering for them if they get it right, but not scolding them if they get it wrong. 

Once your child has mastered the word level (consistently getting 15-20 words correct at least 75% of the time), you can try some phrases/sentences.  

Phrase/Sentence Level

We can sometimes use the same sentence to practice lots of words: 

Example: I see a _____. (bear, pea, puppy)

Or you can make up sentences for each word.  

Again, make your /P/ or /B/ sounds louder (we call this exaggerated modeling…cup), encourage your child, but don’t scold.  Also, don’t do this practice all day every day….just a few minutes here and there is fine.  We don’t want kids to become sensitive about their speech.   

Conversation Level

This can be used from the start in modeling of your own /P/ or /B/ sounds in your conversation (for a few minutes here and there).  Once a child has consistently mastered sentences (75% or more correct), you can start providing gentle reminders in conversation.  “Don’t forget your /B/ sound”, “oops, I think you meant “big”…right?”  Don’t stress your child out….but remind them gently (some of the time).  


One of the best ways to model the /P/ or /B/ sound is by reading stories.  You can read stories to your child that have a lot of /P/ or /B/ sounds in them and exaggerate that sound for them while you read.  Here are some examples of books that have /P/ or /B/ in them frequently.  If your child is old enough to read, you can practice with them reading too!

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw

Hop Jump by Ellen Stoll Walsh
Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr
Kiki Looks for Pup by Elizabeth Hepler 

Kiki Looks for Bob by Elizabeth Hepler 

Boom Cards & Printable Interactive Book Combo: Kiki Looks for PupBoom Cards & Printable Book: Kiki Looks for Bob

Here is a reading of Kiki Looks for Pup.  


For a free set of Boom Cards to target the /B/ Sound, click the image below. 




Leave a Reply

My name is Elizabeth Hepler and I’ve been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2005.  I am the mother of four great kids. Our household is neurodiverse: ADHD, Autism, Gifted, and more!

Join the Ausome Speech Club

Sign up for the latest freebies, tips & tricks, and content info!