Tips and Tricks: The /R/ Sound


How to Teach the R Sound

Today I am here to offer some tips and tricks for teaching liquid sound: /R/.  There are different errors that kids make for the /R/ sound.  One is called “gliding”, where they use a sound like /W/ instead of /R/ (example “I see a waft!” instead of “raft”).  This is something you can work on with your child at home (and in therapy with a qualified speech provider).

There are several levels of teaching sounds: isolation (only the sound), at the word level (ex.”raft”), in phrases (ex. “water raft”), sentences (“The raft is  in the water..”), and finally in conversation.  

This may take some time.  This is normal.  Try to be patient and don’t put too much pressure on your kiddo.  

Isolation Level

One of the fastest way to get that /R/ sound is to make the “pirate sound” /ARRRR/. Some kids can do the /R/ sound right away when you do this…some cannot. If they can’t quite do it yet, don’t worry.  Keep trying.  There are a few steps to remember and teach your child: 1) Keep the lips apart slightly, 2) Smile, 3) Curl Your Tongue back.  


Tips and tricks: Follow the steps above, modeling for your child.  Using a mirror (or the picture mode on your phone) may help too.  Another trick is to put an object or picture of an object that starts with /R/ by your mouth while you model the sound.  This helps to draw attention to your mouth. Try to be as patient as possible and keep it fun..we don’t want our children to be stressed about the way they sound.  Just before the word level comes syllables.  This is where you add in a vowel.  Examples: ro, re, ra, ri, ru, ar, ir, eer

Word Level

Once we’ve got isolation and syllables down, we can move to practicing in words. Some kids do better starting at the beginning of the word, some do better with the middle or end of the word.  You can determine this by trying some words.  I often start with kids where they are successful (this may sound backwards…but saying sounds wrong can get frustrating, so kids are excited when they get them right).  In speech therapy, we call this “stimulability” (if a child is “stimulable” for a sound….they are saying it right! yay!).  

Beginning Words (initial position)

Initial R: red, rose, rat, race, run, raisin, rabbit, ring, rain, rice, rug, rock, rocket, rake, rag, write, rainbow, robot, rope, ribbon

/R/ Sound: Initial Position One Page

Middle Words (medial position)

Medial R: arrow, carrot, earrings, iron, giraffe, party, pirate, fairy, turtle, zero, cheerleader, kangaroo, cherry, berries, jump rope, married, carry, syrup, jewelry, orange


Ending Words (final position)

Final R: car, star, pear, ear, chair, doctor, feather, far, dollar, deer, bear, hair, tire, door, ladder, beaver, letter, dinosaur, R, hammer

Once you figure out which of these positions is easiest, practice those words.  You can model the sounds for your child, emphasizing the parts with /L/  in them…cheering for them if they get it right, but not scolding them if they get it wrong. 

Once your child has mastered the word level (consistently getting 15-20 words correct at least 75% of the time), you can try some phrases/sentences.  


I like to use this visual set to cue which part of the word we are targeting.  


Phrase/Sentence Level

We can sometimes use the same sentence to practice lots of words: 

Example: I see a _____. (road, dollar, chair, rhino)

Or you can make up sentences for each word.  

Again, make your /R/ sounds louder (we call this exaggerated modeling…beaver), encourage your child, but don’t scold.  Also, don’t do this practice all day every day….just a few minutes here and there is fine.  We don’t want kids to become sensitive about their speech. 

Conversation Level

This can be used from the start in modeling of your own /R/ sounds in your conversation (for a few minutes here and there).  Once a child has consistently mastered sentences (75% or more correct), you can start providing gentle reminders in conversation.  “Don’t forget your /R/ sound”, “oops, I think you meant “Red”…right?”  Don’t stress your child out….but remind them gently (some of the time).  


One of the best ways to model the /R/ sound is by reading stories.  You can read stories to your child that have a lot of /L/ sounds in them and exaggerate that sound for them while you read.  Here are some examples of books that have /R/ in them frequently.  If your child is old enough to read, you can practice with them reading too!

Ribbon Rescue by Robert Munsch

Little Red Riding Hood Series by Tammie Lyon

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Row Row Row Your Boat by Iza Trapani

Here is a reading of  The Very Hungry Caterpillar read by author Eric Carle.


Once your child has fully mastered /R/, you may decide to work on /R/ consonant blends (ex. Broom, From, Cry). 


Free Articulation Printables are in the Freebie Library.  Join the Ausome Speech Club below to get the password. 

/R/ Sound: Initial Position One Page Black and White

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    My name is Elizabeth Hepler and I’ve been a practicing Speech-Language Pathologist since 2005.  I am the mother of four great kids. Our household is neurodiverse: ADHD, Autism, Gifted, and more!

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