How to Teach the L Sound!

l sound
I have had several requests on how to teach the /l/ sound so I put some thoughts together and wanted to share them with you!

Three Steps for Teaching the /l/ Sound

1. To teach the /l/ sound place the tongue tip on the alveolar ridge (the ridge behind the front teeth). To help your child do this touch your child’s alveolar ridge with your finger or a lollipop. Then ask your child to place his tongue tip there.

2. Then with his tongue tip in place ask him to relax and then let air flow out the sides of his tongue.

3. Now to make it sound like an /l/ all he has to do is make the sound “loud” by turning on his voice.

1. Teaching the Tongue Tip to Go Up On the Alveolar Ridge

If he has difficulty getting his tongue tip in the right place you could practice by having him lick peanut butter with his tonge from behind his front teeth. Or you might try having him hold a cheerio up behind his front teeth with his tongue tip. You may also try stimulaing the tongue tip with an electric toothbrush and then stimulating the alveloar ridge with an electric toothbrush as well, then tell him to touch the two surfaces together.

2. Teaching the Air to Flow Out the Sides of the Tongue

If he has difficulty with air flowing out the sides of his tongue, with his tongue tip in place on the alveolar ridge have him breathe in so he can feel the cool air going over the sides of his tongue. Have him follow this exercise by then breathing out letting the air escape out over the sides of his tongue. Another way of teaching this lateral air flow (air escaping out the sides of the tongue) is to place a straw in the front of his mouth (not between the lips) and have him blow air into it, then place two straws on either side of the mouth and have him try to blow air into it.

3. Turning on the Voice

If understanding how to “turn on his voice” is the problem have him place his hand over his voice box and feel how it vibrates when he makes loud sounds and quiet whispered sounds.

Another Way to Teach the /l/ Sound

If your child can produce a good voiced TH sound as in “this” or “that” then you can teach the /l/ sound by shaping it from the Th sound. For example, have your child say TH all by itself and then pull the tongue back to the alveolar ridge while still producing voice and you will have a nice /l/ sound.

Move the /l/ Sound Into Syllables

Once your child can produce a good /l/ sound all by itself it is time to move it into syllables. For example practice saying, “la, lo, lee, lai, lay, loo, lu” or “all, ale, eel, I’ll, ‘ol” or “allo, ella, illu, ollo, ulla”

Move the /l/ Sound Into Words

If your child can say the syllables above with a nice /l/ sound then he is ready to move them into words. Below are 3 links to download picture cards of words beginning with the /l/ sound, ending with the /l/ sound or with /l/ occuring in the middle. You can also download these and other sound cards on the worksheets page.

3 sets of word cards to help teach the L sound:
1. l-initial words.pdf         2. l-medial words.pdf         3. l-final words.pdf

Move the /l/ Sound Into Sentences

If your child can say the /l/ sound in the beginning of words then practice the initial /l/sound in sentences. For example “Lucy loves learning about _________.” Fill in the blank with the initial /l/ words you have been practicing, “Lucy loves learning about lemons, or Lucy loves learning about lions…”

If your child can say the /l/ sound at the end of words then practice the the final /l/ sound in sentences. For example, “Paul will call _________.” Again filling in the blank with the final /l/ words you practiced.

If your child can say the /l/ sound well in the middle of words then practice the medial /l/ in sentences. For example, “Bella follows the elephant to __________.”

Move the /l/ Sound into Stories

Have your child practice the /l/ sound while reading out loud. If your child cannot read have your child practice the /l/ sound while retelling short stories.

Move the /l/ Sound into Conversation

If your child is successful with the /l/ sound while reading aloud he is ready to move the /l/ sound into conversation. It is at this point you can correct your child if they forget to pronounce the /l/ correctly.

These suggestions should help your child move in the right direction with the production of the /l/ sound. Good luck, and remember to be patient!


Heidi - Mommy Speech Therapy Heidi Hanks, M.S.CCC-SLP has been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2000. She graduated from Utah State University where she completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. She began her career in early intervention and eventually started her own private practice where she has worked primarily with pre-K through school age kids. She is the founder of Little Bee Speech, and is currently developing apps for speech and language. Heidi lives in Utah with her husband and 4 children.


24 Responses to “How to Teach the L Sound!”

  1. Liz says:

    I just found your blog, and I want to say “thank you” for this wonderful service that you are providing to parents. As a certified elementary teacher, I am familiar with what sounds normally develop at which ages, but I’m not trained to intervene with speech concerns. Now, as a homeschooling mom, I am having to figure out ways to address my 5 yr. old’s minor speech issues (mainly /l/, /r/, and /th/). I’m confident that he’ll outgrow his issues, but, at this point, they occasionally affect his reading and spelling, so I want to address these issues now. Your blog will be very helpful in developing my own speech “therapy” with him. I will certainly tell others about your blog as I know I’m not the only homeschooling parent needing to provide speech therapy to my own child. Again, thank you for your efforts and your great ideas!!!

  2. Angela says:

    Right now, /l/ /r/ and /th/ are the only sounds I’m noticing that the four year old I watch is missing, and I know it’s not that big of a deal (especially when you consider where she was 12-18 months ago). I think I may begin using some of these strategies with her, just to see if she can pick it up.

    Thanks!

  3. nancy says:

    I just found your site while looking for /l/ flash cards to practice with my 5 y/o son, and I wanted to tell you what a wonderful service you are providing for parents everywhere! My son has been in speech therapy since he was 18 mths, he was non-verbal until age 2, and then substituted /d/ and /t/ for most letters. We started working with the /s/ sound, which took 2 years to achieve. He has almost mastered /k/, after less than a year, so now we are moving on to /l/ and /sh/. He is picking up /l/ faily easily (we put peanut butter behind his teeth to show him where to put his tongue) but we are having a really difficult time with /sh/. He sounds it like /s/. He is working on his last block of therapy until next school year, when he can enter into the school speech program in SK, so I will be eagerly looking to your blog for more ideas until then! Again, thank you so much.

  4. Laura says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for such a useful website. I’ll keep checking back for more handy tips!

  5. tabitha says:

    Thanks for the help!
    I was just browsing the internet thinking that no one had anything on this particular subject when here you are!!!
    My child is three almost four and she has never found how to put her tongue in the righ place (l) we all have been working with her and shes got it now-that peanut butter thing really helped out well!!!
    Next is the (th) sound im sur well do fine with this helpful info backing us up!! thank you very much :)

  6. TA Foree says:

    Great information. Our 6 year old grand was a preemie and reads above greade level, but his l and s are a problem(so cute-but can be frustrating to him). Thanks, I shall try your method today.

  7. Emily says:

    I was just thinking I needed to talk to you about the /l/ sound for Nathan. I decided to check your blog first, and there were so many great ideas. Thanks, I will tell you how it goes.

  8. Cathy says:

    Any suggestions for improving the “l” at the end of words when the child is not having difficuly in the beginning or middle of words?

  9. Heidi says:

    Cathy,

    That is great your child is already doing the /l/ sound at the beginning and in the middle of words. That will make teaching it at the end of words that much easier. Just follow the same guidelines I have outlined above and use the final /l/ words from the downloads page.

    Good luck,
    Heidi

  10. Desirae says:

    Thank you! I’m a homeschooling mom, too, and want to help my son with his /l/ issues without all the public school hoops. This is going to help us so much!

  11. Mitzi says:

    I just found your website, and want to thank you for the great advice and worksheets! My three year old is currently in speech therapy, and I love having these worksheets for at home practice each day. Thank you so much!

  12. Karyn says:

    Thanks for your website on the L sound. My 7 year old son has been in speech therapy through the school system since he was 3. He has come a long way, but I feel they have dropped the ball with this particular sound. They keep telling me it’s an 8 year old sound, but I want it worked on now, so he doesn’t have problems at age 8. Just found your website, and I’ll be using it!! Thanks!

  13. Thank you so much, my son was also in the school system’s speech program. They said nothing was wrong, but my husband and I can’t understand him so I knew something needed to be done. So I started listening carefully to him and try to figure out which words he was having trouble with. It is his l’s that we can’t understand, so I will use all of your tips thank you again. God Bless!

  14. Stacey says:

    My daughter is currently 3 years and 8 months old. She is having troubles using the letters (l) and (r). I have been given mixed information from speech pathologists in our area. One said we should get her into speech and another said that these are developmentally appropriate at this age and will come in their own time. I’m unsure what to do. I will be trying these things at home, but I’m wondering if we should look into speech therapy too.

  15. Heidi says:

    Hi Stacey,

    Children typically master the /l/ and /r/ sounds between the ages of 5 and 6. I would say you still have some time. In the meantime as much exposure as you can give her to the correct productions of these sounds will be beneficial to her as she works towards saying them correctly. For example reading books or playing games that target these sounds can be both helpful and fun for you both. So no need to worry. :)

  16. Brandi says:

    Hi! I just found you, and i have a question. I am currently babysitting my 5 year old nephew who will start school this fall. My question is: he can make the “L” sound but when he says Love he says wuv. I have tried making him say the “L” sound and go into love but he stops himself and says “L wuv.” How can i get him to not stop to correct himself? Like I said he is 5 and he gets very self conscious when I try to correct him and I don’t want to hurt his feelings.

  17. Rachael says:

    Just a quick THANK YOU for this. I was starting to get desperate! One thing I have found has helped a little is to give my son (5 and a half) a mirror to watch his own mouth while making the L sound after watching me make the sound. Is this a good idea or might it introduce any difficulties?

    Thanks again!

  18. Heidi says:

    Hi Rachael,

    The mirror is a great idea. I use a mirror all the time in therapy. It really seems to help.

    :) Heidi

  19. Heidi says:

    Hi Brandi,

    You are so sweet to work with your nephew on his sounds. Since he can say the l sound all by itself the next step would be to try it in syllables and then words. Stretch out the /l/ and then add a vowel for practicing it in syllables. For example say l-a, la, la or l-oo, loo, loo. Once he can do this really well then have him try working on it in words. If I was working on the word “love” with a child that would typically say “wuv” I would have him say the /l/ sound and then the “ove’ separated by a pause and overemphasizing the open posture of my mouth on “ove.” Pointing out that I do not bring my lips into a rounded position (like when you make the w sound) at all. I would then go through all the beginning /l/ words on my worksheets page in the same manner.

    And Brandi, don’t worry about hurting his feelings. Just make it fun and he will love practicing his sounds with you. Encourage all his good attempts and he will get it. You will also feel pretty great for teaching him. Good luck!

  20. cynthia says:

    Hi. My son is 4 and a half and we are a french speaking family living in the UK. When he says the letter L it sounds like the letter Y. Is it specific to the french language or english speaking children encounter the same issue? Also the letter S sounds like TH. I m so glad I found your website. I hope I will be able to help him rather than having him going to the speech and language therapist. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experience with mums.

  21. Heidi says:

    Hi Cynthia,

    Substituting the /l/ with the “y” sound is a common substitution for english speaking children as well. So is substituting the “th” sound for the /s/ sound. The majority of children don’t typically have the /l/ and /s/ sounds mastered until 5-6 years old. Having said that I am a firm believer in early intervention. I have found with my own children as well as with my clients that sometimes all children need is a little direction and then they are able to learn to say the sounds correctly.

    Best of luck teaching the /l/ sound. I hope this post will help. Once you have mastered that sound check out my post “My Child has a Lisp Should I be Concerned?” for some tips on how to teach the /s/ sound.

  22. Arun says:

    Thank you so much for your assistance and guidance. This is a great help for us to teach our 7 year old kid.
    God may bless you and your family

  23. Rachel says:

    Hey Heidi, I was wondering about Speech Buddies for the L sound and what your thoughts are on that tool. Thank you for the tips. Rachel

  24. Heidi says:

    Hi Rachel,

    The L Speech Buddy is a great tool for teaching the L Sound. It gives the child a definite target for where to place their tongue while making the sound.