Many of my clients have difficulty producing the /l/ sound. In most cases, the child substitutes a /w/ sound for an /l/ sound (e.g., “wike” for “like” or “wittle” for “little”). I find in most cases, this is an easier sound to teach because it’s very visual. I often refer to this sound as the “lifter” because the tongue lifts to the alveolar ridge (the bump behind the top, front teeth). This sound is mastered around 5 or 6, but to be honest, I sometimes target it a little earlier. Most children are stimulable for this sound around 4 and it’s a pretty easy and quick way to improve the child’s overall speech intelligibility. The /l/ sound is so prevalent in the English language so it’s definitely an important sound to master!
Here are some basic suggestions to teaching the /l/ sound:
1. L is the lifter sound! As I mentioned previously, this is our name for the /l/ sound, especially for my kiddos that are really into trucks. We imagine that their tongue is like the excavator trucks they love so much. First, we place cheerios in the excavator and lift it up to model the tongue lifting. Then, we pretend that their tongue has to “lift” a cheerio to the alveolar ridge, just the excavator. This helps to get the general tongue movement in place. From here, you can encourage airflow and practice saying the /l/ sound in syllables-/la/, /lu/, /li/ etc.
2. Visual Mirror Cues. As the child gets more comfortable with the tongue placement and movement, you can try saying the /l/ sound in the beginning of words (e.g., love, lake, live, like). It may be helpful to have the mirror nearby to remind the tongue to “lift” to make the sound. This is also a great opportunity to practice minimal pairs if your child is still rounding their lips to make a /w/ sound rather than an /l/ sound. You can have your child look in the mirror to help discriminate–did their lips do the work (produced a /w/) or their tongue (produced an /l/)?
3. Use the Natural Environment. Check out my previous post on how you can incorporate the /l/ sound into daily activities.
Have fun with it and let me know how it goes!