The R sound is a very unusual sound that has multiple variations. There are as many as 32 different sounding types of the R sound. Yikes! Because of the complexity, the focus of this article is on the R consonant sound and how you can use our app to practice this sound to help your child learn to say it correctly. Download the app from the App Store or Google Play
Though the R sound is one of the most commonly used sounds in the English language, it is also notoriously known as one of the trickiest. In fact, the R sound is one of the last sounds to be mastered by children, and though it begins to emerge at 3 years of age, it often only matures at the ages of 6 or 7.
What is the R Consonant Sound?
The R consonant sound is a variation of the R sound that occurs before, after, and between consonant sounds in words. A consonant is a speech sound that is not a vowel.
The key to helping your child correctly say the R consonant sound is to look at three important oral structures used in speech. These structures need to either constrict or close slightly in order for the sound produced by the vocal cords to be shaped in a certain way.
The corners of the lips will draw in. This will bring them away from the face
If the R consonant sound is at the beginning of a word, the lips should make a very tight circle. If the R consonant sound is anywhere else in a word, the lips should make a relaxed circle.
The rounded lip shape is the first key component of saying a correct R consonant sound.
It must pull back slightly. If the R consonant sound is at the beginning of a word, the tongue must raise at the tip without touching the roof of the mouth. If the R consonant sound is anywhere else in a word, the tongue must create an arch by flattening and rising in the middle. This rising will cause the sides of the tongue to touch the insides of the top and bottom teeth on either side.
By being pulled back and flattened, the front part of the tongue will come down but not touch anything inside the mouth
The upper part of the throat right behind the tongue, also known as the pharynx, must constrict or tighten in order for the correct R sound to be produced. The vocal cords need to vibrate to correctly produce the sound
Check out the following video:
After watching the video, open our app and practice the words that include the R consonant in them.
Teaching the R Consonant Sound to Your Child
Explain to your child that you are going to practice saying the R sound, like in the word “rabbit”
Tell your child that when they say the R sound in the word “rabbit” you’d like to see their lips make an “O” shape. Make sure you show them how if they don’t understand.
Next, to get your child’s tongue in the correct placement position, tell them that their tongue needs to create a hump in the middle of their mouth like a little hill.
This is so that when they say R sound in the word “rabbit,” they can pretend that there is a little rabbit hopping over the hill in their mouth to get outside. If there’s no hill, then there’s no correct R sound and the rabbit can’t get out.
Lastly, explain to your child that they need to tighten the back part of their throat so that they can push enough air up into their mouth and along their tongue in order to help the rabbit jump over the hill.
Once they can correctly say the R consonant sound in isolation, follow the articulation error hierarchy which you can read about in this article, or watch in this video.
Some Mo/r/e T/r/icks
Tell your child to make a “fish face” to help them achieve the correct “O” lip placement. You can turn this into a game to see who can make the funniest face whilst moving their lips into the correct position.
If this doesn’t work, you can exaggerate sticking your lips out and telling them to copy you or use a mirror so that they can see their own progress. Once they can do this you can refine the positioning of their lips into the correct “O” shape.
Visual cueing and visual modelling are powerful learning aids that can be used in the form of you saying the correct R consonant sound whilst your child imitates what your lips are doing. Our app is a wonderful tool for imitation, as it develops your child’s articulation skills and other desirable behaviours by promoting learning through watching video demonstrations given by real kids. Download the app from the App Store or Google Play.
You can read more about video modeling and imitation by reading the following article: Mirror Neurons, Video Modeling, and Your Child’s Speech.
Physically showing your child where to place their tongue is very effective. The majority of children who experience difficulty with the R sound are unable to position their tongue correctly because it all happens behind the visual barrier of the front teeth which can also make it quite frustrating for them.
Once you have reached the word level and are practicing words that start with the R consonant sound, touch the tip of your child’s tongue with your finger or a tongue depressor and tell them that you want them to lift that part up as far as they can without touching the roof of their mouth.
Once you have reached the word level and are practicing words that have the R consonant sound in other places in, touch the middle of your child’s tongue with your finger or a tongue depressor and tell them that you want them to lift that part up to create an arch without touching the roof of their mouth.
Have your child gargle with water to help them learn how to tighten their throat muscles the way they would when correctly saying the R consonant sound.
You can also draw their attention to this kind of throat tightening by having them drink through a straw and explaining how the muscles work.
When your child is saying the R sound, place their hand on their neck so that they can feel the vibration made by their vocal cords. If they are having difficulty creating this vibration, then you can place their hand on your throat to show them how it’s done. Pretend that the vibration is the “rabbit” hopping. If there’s no vibration, then the “rabbit” isn’t hopping and he can’t get out.
To assist with the voicing and correct articulation of the R consonant sound, tell your child to pretend that they are growling like an angry dog. You can also turn this into game by seeing who can come up with the scariest or funniest growl.
More tips and tricks
Have your child try and think of their own words that contain the R consonant sound.
Make up silly phrases or sentences and even imitate appropriate phrases and sentences that you see in more than 1000 bonus video stories anywhere within Speech Blubs or elsewhere.
Give your child an R consonant word and ask them to make up their own silly phrases or sentences – this is great language practice as well!
Use a mirror within the app at all levels of the hierarchy so that your child can see what they are doing and learn the skill of self-monitoring.
We recommend using the “Mouth Gym” section of our app to warm up a bit before you practice. The “Mouth Gym” section is designed to increase your child’s awareness of how their mouth works, as well as their coordination, range of motion, and endurance.
If you’re worried about your child’s ability to say the R consonant sound or have any other concerns about their pragmatics, comprehension, or talking, you can use our free screener within the app. We’ll even give you a personalized report with actionable advice with the results.
For more information about the app visit www.speechblubs.com or write to us. Know that you have an ally in Speech Blubs and that our biggest success is seeing your child achieve their greatest potential.