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10 Best Tips on How to Teach the L Sound in Speech Therapy

Many young children naturally learn to produce the L sound before or around 3 years old. This is also the age when a child learns how to make different sounds using their mouth and tongue so it’s common for them to have substituting or deletion errors such as turning the /l/ sound into something different such as saying “I wove you” instead of “I love you”, or instead of saying “Flower”, a child may say “Fower.”

However, if the errors persist between the ages of 5 and 6 years old, the common age when this sound is mastered, it’s best to consult SLPs (Speech-Language Pathologists) sooner rather than later to provide appropriate therapy to help address any speech concerns.

When to know if the child is ready to practice the /l/ sound

Knowing the suitable time for a child to start practicing the /l/ sound is influenced by varying factors. Mastery of these sounds typically develops as children mature, though the readiness timeline can be different among individuals. Here are some signs that will show a child may be ready to practice the /l/ sound:

Development within the appropriate age range

Most kids begin saying the /l/ sound when they’re between 3 to 6 years old. If a child is in this age group and is improving with other communication skills, it’s a good time to start practicing the sound with them.

Hearing and recognizing different sounds

It’s important for a child to be able to listen carefully and recognize the /l/ sound. If they can hear it in words and know it’s different from other sounds, that means they’re probably ready to try saying it themselves.

Interest and Motivation

If a kid likes talking and having fun with speech activities, they’re more likely to learn new phonetics. If a child is curious and wants to give saying the /l/ sound a try, that’s a positive sign.

Mouth and tongue coordination

To say the /l/ sound correctly, you need to move your tongue, lips, and jaw in a certain way. If a child can do these movements the right way and generally haws some control over their tongue and jaw, then they’re ready to practice making the /l/ sound.

Consistency in Other Sounds

If a child can say other sounds well and has a strong speech foundation, they might be ready to add the /l/ sound. However, many children who struggle with the /l/ sound may also struggle with other later-developing sounds such as /r/, /s/, /sh/, /th/. In these cases, /l/ could still be an appropriate sound to start learning.

Word and Sentence Use

See if the child can use and understand words and sentences that are a bit tricky. Being good at this is important because it could later help the child use the /l/ sound in more advanced ways when they talk.

Social Interaction

Think about how well the child talks with others. If they have good, meaningful talks with friends and grown-ups, it can be a sign that they are ready to learn new sounds like the /l/ sound.

Patience and Persistence

See if the child can keep doing the same activities over and over and keep trying to learn. Being patient and ready to practice a lot are really important for doing well in speech therapy.

Note: Keep in mind that every child progresses uniquely, and the typical timeline for one child may differ for another. Creating a supportive and stress-free environment for practicing speech sounds is essential when working on the  sound.

How to Teach the /l/ Sound to Children

Helping kids learn to say the /l/ sound can be fun for speech therapists and parents alike. By using easy and effective methods, you can make a big difference in getting children to pronounce this sound correctly.

How to teach the /l/ sound: Use of Auditory Cues:

1. Demonstrating Modeling

Show the child how to say the /l/ sound by doing it yourself. Make sure to say it slowly and clearly, so they can see how your tongue should touch the roof of your mouth. You can use words like “light” or “lap” to demonstrate. Say the word slowly, and point out how your tongue makes contact with the roof of your mouth when you pronounce the /l/ sound.

2. Practicing Isolation

Ask the child to practice saying the /l/ sound by itself. Let them focus only on making that specific sound without any other letters or sounds. Encourage them to say it a few times, emphasizing the importance of getting comfortable with it. You can make it a game by seeing how many times they can say the sound in one minute.

3. Utilizing Minimal Pairs

Show the child how the /l/ sound can change words by focusing on pairs of words that differ only in the presence or absence of it. For example, say the word “lip” without the /l/ sound, and then say “lip” with it—now it becomes “lip.” Repeat this with other pairs like “whip” and “lip,” or “top” and “lop.”

4. Contrasting with Other Sounds

Help the child notice the differences between the /l/ sound and similar sounds like “W” or “Y.” Show them how your tongue moves differently for each sound. For example, when making the /l/ sound, your tongue touches the roof of your mouth, but for the “W” sound, your lips round and almost come together. Similarly, the “Y” sound involves mainly the back of the tongue flattening and raising up, rather than the tip or front.

Use words like “lip” for “L,” “wig” for “W,” and “yes” for “Y” to illustrate these distinctions. Encourage the child to pay attention to how each sound feels and sounds different, helping them discriminate and correctly identify the sound amid similar-sounding letters. Practicing these differences with simple words can make it a fun and interactive learning experience for the child.

How to teach the /l/ sound: Use of Visual Cues:

5. Implementing Mirror Use

Encouraging a child to observe their mouth movements in a mirror while practicing can be greatly beneficial. This method allows them to see how their tongue and lips move, aiding in understanding the correct placement and movement of the tongue. For example, when practicing, the child can look in the mirror to see how the tongue should touch the back of the upper teeth. This visual feedback reinforces the learning process, making it easier for them to replicate the action.

6. Using Color-Coded Tongue Diagrams

Using color-coded visuals to represent different parts of the mouth involved in making the /l/ sound can be an effective teaching tool. For instance, the tongue could be colored in one shade and the lips in another to distinctly highlight their respective roles in sound production. This method helps learners visually distinguish between the various oral structures and understand their specific functions.

For example, a diagram could show the tongue in blue, emphasizing its position against the roof of the mouth, and the lips in red, indicating their slightly parted position. These colorful visuals can be used during speech therapy sessions or practice at home, making it easier for children to mimic the correct mouth movements. By associating colors with specific actions, children can more easily recall and apply the correct techniques in articulation, aiding in faster and more effective learning.

7. Using Picture Cards

Providing flashcards with images representing words that contain the /l/ sound is an effective way to reinforce correct pronunciation. These flashcards can feature pictures of objects or actions that include the sound, such as ‘lion’, ‘lamp’, ‘ball’, or ‘smile’. As children look at each flashcard, they can practice saying the word, associating the image with the sound. This method not only helps in learning the correct pronunciation, but will also aid in vocabulary building.

How to teach the /l/ sound: Use of Tactile Cues:

8. Guiding Hand Placement

Guiding a child’s hand to feel the movement of their own tongue while pronouncing the /l/ sound is a hands-on approach that can significantly aid their understanding of the tactile sensations involved in speech production. By placing their hand near their mouth, children can feel the movement and positioning of the tongue as it touches the roof of the mouth. This kinesthetic method helps them connect the physical sensation with the auditory output.

9. Using Tongue Depressors (Should only be done by a speech therapist)

Utilizing tongue depressors or popsicle sticks as tools to simulate the tongue’s movement when producing the /l/ sound can be an effective tactile learning strategy. By using these sticks to mimic the tongue’s action, children can physically feel the motion of the tongue lifting to touch the roof of the mouth. For instance, a child can hold a popsicle stick and move it to touch the upper part of their mouth, replicating the tongue’s movement during the pronunciation of the words like “light” or “love.”

10. Engaging in Sensory Play

Integrating sensory activities like playdough or clay sculpting can be a valuable strategy in teaching the /l/ sound. These activities engage the hands and can be used to creatively reinforce the concept of tongue movement. For instance, children can sculpt the playdough or clay into shapes that represent the tongue’s position when making the sound. They might create a model of the mouth and use the clay to show how the tongue touches the roof of the mouth.

Conclusion on how to teach the /l/ sound in Speech Therapy

Integrating these methods into a child’s daily routines can significantly improve their proficiency in correctly pronouncing the /l/ sound. It’s crucial to bear in mind that consistent practice and patience play vital roles in ensuring successful speech therapy.

Understanding that each child progresses at their own pace, the key lies in creating opportunities for the child to practice in various ways. Whether through games, interactive activities, or simple conversations, the goal is to make learning enjoyable and a natural part of their daily experiences.

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SLP Team
Author: SLP Team

Our Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) team is a dedicated group of professionals committed to sharing industry expertise to help you grow your practice and improve how you treat your patients.

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