How to teach the R sound


Emerges around 3 years of age

Mastered around 8 years of age


Last week when I was doing an evaluation….the sibling of the child I was evaluating walked in the room…and instantly I could hear the difficulty he had with the R sound.  Parents will often say to me that they feel like their little one’s speech is “babyish“or that she is “mumbling” or that she sounds as if she has an “accent“.  When I hear that I am pretty confident that the issue is with the R sound.

As a speech and language pathologist….since 1993….it is pretty fair to say that R seems to be one of the most difficult sounds to remediate.  I find it challenging because it is hard for the little ones to see what they have to do with their tongue.  When I work on the Bsound…the little ones are able to see that my two lips are closing…however…with R…it is more difficult…because they can not see what I am doing with my tongue.

R is definitely one of the more difficult sounds to produce in English…and there are 21 variations of R!….so sound production for R becomes even more of a challenge.

I have included a link below to a great website…so if your child is having difficulty with Rplease click on the link below for lots of information and resources that can help you help your little one.

I thought, though, that I would write a post regarding one of the variations of R…it is a variation that I was working on just today with one of the little ones that I see.  She is just a delicious little girl…with an incredible personality…she makes my job so much fun…and I told her mom today….how much I learn just by working with her daughter.  So thank you to the delicious little one that I am so lucky to work with.

Today’s post…..followed after the link below….is in reference to R as heard in a word such as EAR.


Here is the website and link:

The Entire World of R™ approach is to evaluate and treat /r/ phonologically, based on word position and individual sound. Phonetically, /r/ has 8 distinct vocalic variations:
/ar/, /air/, /ear/, /ire/, /or/, /er/,
/rl/, and prevocalic /r/. Separated further by initial, medial, and final word positions, there are 21 different types of /r/ in total.


I like to start off the session talking about the hard palate…where it is….at the top of your mouth…and having the little one feel the palate with her pointer finger.  I explain that when she makes the R sound…her tongue should touch her hard palate.  Often times with R (not all of the time…remember there are 21 variations of R)….the child is not touching the palate at all.  So I explain to her that her tongue needs to touch her palate. 


To give her a visual cue so she understands what her tongue is doing…I use a physical cue with my hand and fist.  I stretch out my hand in front of me…make a fist…and then move my arm and fist towards my body.  This cue is showing her that her tongue needs to do two things: move up and move back.  I explain that my arm is doing just what I want my tongue to do…and I have the little ones watch while I move my arm upand back towards my body.


How to help with accurate placement of tongue for R:

In order to help get the tongue in the right position for the R sound…I try and shape the Esound into the R sound.  The cue below is the cue I use to help elicit E.   I do NOT use a rubber band…rather I start my fingers together (so the pointer and thumb of my left hand and the pointer and thumb of my right hand would be touching each other)….then I stretch them out…just as you would stretch out the rubber band.  This is showing your little one that E is a long sound that continues.

So using the E sound should help shape the R sound.

 Cue for E sound (which will help shape the R sound):


Visual/Physical Cue:

One of the ABA teachers I work with called this the “taffy” cue……so imagine that you are holding a piece of taffy between your hands….held together by your pointer fingers and thumbs…..then you are going to pull the taffy apart…..stretching your fingers/hands apart…..the picture above is the best one I could find to give you the visual cue…..remember to start at midline(the middle of your body) with both hands together….only pointer and thumbs touching…..then as you stretch your fingers out….make the E sound… should stretch to the length of your shoulders.


Now…once you stretch out the E…stop the stretch and point both pointer fingers up .  I use this cue to help the little ones know that there tongue has to go up and touch the palate.


This is a great exercise to help your little one produce this variation of R.

I practice this variation in words and made up words as follows:


















When working on this sound….I would first practice with just the sound….so therapy would look like this: 

Work on stretching out the E sound…using the taffy cue…and then move tongue back (you do not have to lift the tongue up…it is already up! that’s why we say the E sound will help with production of R)… now as you move the tongue back be sure to put your two pointer fingers up…and ending with the R sound. 

*** Practice roaring like a lion…..pretend to be a pirate: Arrr…or race cars and say: Vroom.  These are fun ways to help your little one move her tongue up and back.


After you have practiced just the sound…use the word list above and practice the words.

Then the words in phrases…then sentences…longer sentences and finally in conversation.


One last tip…please go to  They sell a tool that helps with the correct placement of R.  The little girl I was referring to above….her mom will be buying her one…so once I have used it I can give you more information on how successful I think it is for tongue placement.  When you go to the will be able to search for the tool that helps with the R sound.

I will be sure to go through the other variations of R…please post with any questions.







gatorade bottle

About Kim

My name is Kim Marino and I have been practicing as a licensed speech and language pathologist since 1993. I work on Long Island providing diagnostic evaluations and services to children from birth to age 21. My experience is vast and am proud to say that I work with children that may present with articulation and phonological concerns, oral motor feeding concerns, Down Syndrome feeding, cognitive rehabilitation, auditory processing delays, receptive language delays, cleft palate feeding and sound development and expressive language delays. Most importantly, I am the mother of four amazing children and am happily married to my childhood sweetheart. I feel blessed to have my four children and so lucky to share this journey in life with my husband. I always had it somewhere in my head that I wanted to develop a blog or a website of some sort so that I could provide families with an additional that parents could help their little ones become a better communicator. And as I was developing this blog....I realized that I also needed to share the stories about my life and my children....and the funny things along the way that help to keep me smiling. Whether you are a working mother or not...finding balance between home, children and life can be a challenge....I hope that my blog helps to bring a smile to your face..and also some tools to help you help your little or big one. I hope you enjoy! Kim
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