One of the hardest things for me to do is sound like a kid. (Second only to sounding like a woman.) So I went out and did some research on how to sound like a kid in voice acting.
In general, it’s easier and more common for women to voice the characters of boys than it is for men. The most famous example is Nancy Cartwright who does the voice of Bart Simpson. Mimicking the voice of a child takes more than only shifting the pitch of your voice.
In this article, we’ll go over the tips that I found for adult men and women to do kid voices.
Sounding like a kid (Tips for men and women)
1. Get excited. Most kids are excited. And if they’re not excited, they’re trying to get excited. If you listen to good voice actors doing kid voices, you’ll notice that kind of excited energy in their performance.
Nancy Cartwright in this video is just super energetic, even when she’s not doing her Bart Simpson voice. Tap into that child-like energy and it’ll really help sell your performance.
That excitement is all about having your energy all over the place. It’s like someone has an “excitement” slider and keeps sliding it up and down. Try do that a bit.
How do you get excited? If you’re struggling to channel your inner kid, try just doing 10 jumping jacks before you hit record. Your energy will naturally be higher and that’ll come across in your voice.
Also, try recording while standing. It’s easier to add energy into your performance if you’re standing. Sitting can make you sound lazy, especially if you’re not yet used to sounding excited for a recording.
2. Make your voice shaky. Kids don’t (usually) speak with confidence. And even those that do, tend to sound less confident than older kids and adults. Their voices are shakier.
3. Add in a slight speech impediment. Kids aren’t yet great at speaking. They haven’t been doing it as long as adults have. So some kids might have a lisp, some might mash their consonants together.
Play around with that. Add in a lisp for one character and a slight mumble for another. And maybe do both together for another character.
4. Change your speaking cadence or musicality. The way a child speaks kind of matches the rest of their energy. It swings back and forth quite a bit. While women have a smoother musicality to the way that they speak, a child will have much higher highs and they’ll swing between pitches more often.
5. Focus your breath in your face and head. You should be able to get closer to how a kid sounds by using head voice. To practice, just slowly make a siren sound to go back and forth between your “chest voice” (which feels like it’s resonating in your chest) to your “head voice” (which feels like it’s resonating in your face and head.)
Once you know how to get into head voice, try practicing saying words and short sentences in head voice.
Using head voice can hurt your vocal chords so go into it gently. And slowly increase your practice over days and weeks.
6. Listen to how kids talk. These days there’s no shortage of kids to listen to and watch on YouTube and TikTok. Pick some cool kids you’d like to sound like and listen to how they talk. Listen to the words they use, the way their voices move up and down in pitch, how they breathe (and how they don’t breathe) between sentences, how much excitement they have in their voice, their accent and so on.
By listening to kids (and practicing immitating them) daily, you’ll more quickly be able to create some kid characters.
7. Practice being loud. You’ll need good microphone technique for this one. Practice being loud. Most kids, especially younger kids, don’t know what “use your inside voice” means. Tap into that.
Try performing some “exciting” lines and don’t be afraid to be loud. Good mic technique for this is to just tilt your head away from your mic a bit as you get louder. Think of what singers do when they’re belting out a phrase on-stage.
And this isn’t “shouting”. Kids have a way of projecting their voices pretty naturally without shouting. Sure they’ll shout sometimes when they’re playing but what you’re trying to get at here is that sort of excited, natural loudness that comes from just being a kid.
8. Brighten your voice. Kids are usually happier sounding than adults. This tip is about sounding “happier”. Smiling can help your voice sound brighter, happier and more cheerful. It’ll feel weird and unnatural at first but eventually it should come more easily.
This is different than the tip about being excited. Excitement is about having sudden energy in a new direction, over and over. Sounding “brighter” is more about a general happy sound. A general optimism and naivety.
If you’re trying to sound like a girl, then adding a bit of “shakiness” to your voice could do the trick. If your voice is naturally deeper than a young girls, then try talking at a slightly higher pitch. Don’t go too high or you’ll just go into falsetto which will sound thin and, well, “false” like the name says.
Tips for adult women voicing boys
Women have an easier time voicing kids than men do because their voices are just naturally higher pitched. They also tend to have more musicality in the way that they speak than men do. Which fits well with kid characters.
So a lot of the work is already done. But there are a few tips that apply specifically to women trying to voice boys.
1. Try adding a croak to your voice. Girls have smoother voices than boys. So just talking at a higher pitch might make you sound more like a girl than a boy. So add a bit of a croak to your voice to get that “boy” voice.
2. Don’t lower your pitch. When some women lower the pitch of their voices, they can sometimes end up sounding “sexy” instead of sounding like a boy. So record yourself and listen to what you sound like. Let that guide you towards a more natural sounding voice. Most times, this doesn’t mean using the lower register of your voice.
Tips for adult men
If you’re a guy wanting to add some kid characters to your repertoire, you’ve got a much harder job ahead of you. You need to practice changing some of the physicality of the way you speak so you can sound more like a kid.
1. Tighten your vocal chords. Try swallowing half way (not all the way) and then keeping your vocal chords in this position and then try to talk. It’s uncomfortable and can hurt so go slowly.
This will get your voice to sound a bit higher, almost like breathing in helium from a balloon.
2. Try this exercise: Make an ongoing “woo” sound. Then raise and lower the back (or root) of your tongue. (By half-swallowing.) At the same time, you should find that your soft palate lowers to meet your tongue. You’ll notice that your voice sounds higher in pitch when you raise your tongue than when you lower it.
Getting this sort of self-awareness of what physically happens when you do certain things with your voice will help you “pull out” the right sounds when you need them.
Here are some great examples of (mostly women) voice actors doing kid voices. Watch them over and over and try copy them.
Nancy Cartwright does her 7 Simpsons characters in under 40 seconds:
EG Daily doing Rugrats catchphrases:
This one’s gold! Debi Derryberry’s tips to doing unique girl voices:
ProZD shares secrets to changing your voice:
But before you spend the next 4 hours practicing kid voices, you need to to learn how to care for your (kid) voice.
Preparing to do a kid’s voice (Practicing safely)
If you’re trying to do a voice outside of your normal speaking range, you need to be careful. Trying to “nail” that kid character in a single session will do you more harm than good.
Here are some tips for staying safe while honing in on your “kid voice”:
1. Do some “siren” warm ups. Create an “ng” sound at the back of your throat and then go up and down in pitch like a siren. Do at least 5 minutes of this to warm up your vocal chords and get your voice ready for higher and lower pitches than what you use in your normal talking voice.
2. Have some tea with honey. Avoid caffeine. Try a herbal tea. This will lubricate your vocal chords which will make it easier for you to go up in pitch without causing any damage.
3. Stay hydrated. Higher-pitched voices make your vocal chords rub together more frequently. Which can mean a lot more “wear and tear” to your voice in a shorter space of time. So keep a bottle of water nearby at all times and drink a little more than you might normally.
4. Know when to stop. If doing a kid voice starts hurting, stop. Try it again in an hour or a day. Give your voice time to rest and time to heal. Like anything physical, it’s not just about pushing your limits but also about giving your body time to heal and adjust to this new work you’re making it do.