The "R" sound? Tough one. Incessant, thunderous roars? No problem!

How to Teach Toddlers to Pronounce the Letter R

by Julie Vickers

The letter "R" is commonly mispronounced by 3- and 4-year olds, according to speech therapist Patricia McAleer-Hamaguchi, author of "Childhood Speech, Language and Listening Problems. Unlike sounds such as "P" and "T," which are easily produced at the front of the mouth, you make the "R" sound in a more complex way by bringing the tongue up and farther toward the back of the mouth. Making the "R" sound can prove tricky for toddlers. But you can help your mini King of the Beasts roar like a pro with a fun story and simple articulation exercises.

Sit with your toddler and show him two toy lions of different size. Recount a simple story about a lion cub who could not roar, no matter how hard he tried, and a bigger lion, or "Daddy lion," who had a roar that made the ground tremble. Use different voices for the characters, such as a high-pitched, squeaky voice for the lion cub, and a deep, growling voice for his Daddy. Introduce names beginning with the letter "R" for the two characters, such as Rodney the lion cub and Robbie the Daddy lion.

Say, "Whenever Rodney tried to roar, it came out as a squeak." Place your mouth into the position of making a "rrr" sound, but make a squeaky sound instead. Encourage your toddler to watch you and copy your mouth movement. Then say, "However, when Robbie roared, all the other animals ran for their lives!" Cue your loudest and most fearsome roar and mad fleeing movements of other toy animals, such as toy giraffes, zebras and monkeys. Let your toddler join in with the sound effects.

Introduce the dinosaur toy and say, "Robbie took the little lion cub to see Doctor Dinosaur who would help him learn to roar. Doctor Dinosaur asked Rodney to copy the sounds he made." Let the dinosaur doctor give a series of instructions for Rodney that combine a long vowel sound with the "R" sound at the end, such as "eeee-rrrr" and "aaaa-rrrr." Encourage your toddler to play the parts of the dinosaur doctor and the lion cub patient.

Items you will need

  • Toy animals
  • Toy dinosaur


  • Introduce a variety of other toy characters or animals to help your toddler practice the "R" sound. Speech therapist Karen George at the Chicago Speech Therapy website suggests practicing growling like a bear -- "Grrrrowl" -- or barking like a dog -- "Rrruff! Rrruff!"


About the Author

Mother of three and graduate of the London Metropolitan University, Julie Vickers is an early years teacher and writer who also loves to craft and create! She writes on topics such as education, health and parenting for websites such as School Explained and has contributed learning sessions on child development and behavior for the Education Information and Learning Services website.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images