The /l/ sound is another sound that should develop during your child’s third and sixth year.
This is another type of sound that will require strong tongue muscles, so it’s important to make sure your child is physically able to pronounce the /l/ sound.
How It’s Elicited
Instruct your child to first touch the tip of their tongue to the roof of their mouth, just behind the top front teeth. It might be a good idea to gently touch this area—called the alveolar ridge—in your child’s mouth to show her where to place the tip of her tongue.
Next, encourage your child to relax their tongue and exhaling. This is the motion that she’ll need to make when pronouncing the /l/ sound. Once she’s mastered this tongue motion, tell her to add her voice. The result should be a properly pronounced /l/.
How to Practice It
Because the tongue is such an important part of pronunciation when learning the /l/ sound, the first question you should ask is whether or not the muscles in your child’s tongue have developed to the point that it is strong enough to lift to the roof of the mouth
and block airflow.
A good way to test this, even before trying to teach the /l/ sound, is to ask your child to open his or her mouth and move their tongue up, down and then side to side. If he is able to do this without struggle, he’s ready to start moving forward in his language
However, if this seems like a challenge, you should encourage your child to strength the tongue muscles by repeatedly lifting their tongue from the bottom of the mouth to the top.
Tip: Since tongue exercises might not seem like the most exciting thing to your child, make it more fun by dabbing something tasty like peanut butter on the roof of her mouth, just behind the teeth where the tongue would rest while saying the /l/ sound.
Once your child is ready to begin mastering the /t/ sound, remember that repetition is important. First, your child should practice /t/ sound by itself until you feel like she is ready to move on to bigger challenges.
Syllables should be the next step in achieving fluency. Practice several of these with your child—“la,” “loo,” “luh.” If those are starting to see easy for your child, switch to syllables that end with the /d/ sound—“al,” “il,” “ul.”
The next step is to practice words and sentences with /l/ or multiple /l/ sounds. Make sure that you make clear articulation the most important thing during practice. If you child stumbles over a /l/ sound while saying a sentence or word, have them repeat that sound correctly before moving on to the next word.
If you are concerned with your child’s speech or language development, please contact Chicago Speech Therapy by clicking on the “Contact Karen” button on the upper right section of this page. Your online inquiry should be responded to within 30 minutes.
Karen George is a Chicago speech-language pathologist. Karen is a founding member and the current leader of Chicago Speech Therapists Connect, a group of Chicago-area speech-language pathologists. As of Jan 2012, the Chicago Speech Therapists group contained over 400 members. The private pediatric speech therapy practice Karen founded, Chicago Speech Therapy, LLC, provides in-home pediatric speech therapy in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Karen and her team of Chicago speech therapists have a reputation for ultra-effective speech therapy and work with a variety of speech disorders. Karen is the author of several books such as A Parent’s Guide to Speech and Language Milestones, A Parent’s Guide to Articulation, A Parent’s Guide to Speech Delay, A Parent’s Guide to Stuttering Therapy, and A Parent’s Guide to Pediatric Feeding Therapy. She is often asked to speak and has addressed audiences at Children’s Memorial and Northwestern University. Karen is highly referred by many Chicago-area Pediatricians and elite schools.