5 Ways You Can Use Food to Elicit The R Sound in Speech Therapy

Food can be a fun, motivating (and delicious) way to elicit the R sound in speech therapy. Who doesn’t love snacks, right? Today I’ll share 5 ways I use food to elicit the R sound in my speech therapy room. Some of them may surprise you!

Sticky Stuff

Think icing, peanut butter, or even nutella… YUM. Apply a small amount to points of contact for the R sound to give some sensory feedback. Even sour spray could work if you’re careful about applying it. For bunched R, you could put the “sticky stuff” on the lateral edges of the tongue, or even on the inside edges of the top molars. For retroflex R, you could apply it about halfway back in the mouth on the hard palate where the tongue tip hovers. If you try it for retroflex R, just be sure to explain their tongue tip should not remain touching when they produce their R!


Grab the skinny little pretzel sticks and have them gently place them between their molars- no biting! They should use the pretzels as “railroad tracks” to slide their tongue back nice and wide for bunched R. If you own my best-seller Teaching R then you’ve seen this before. Check out the image below if you’re a more visual person.


This is a similar concept to the “sticky stuff”. Rub it at the points of contact for their version of the R sound- bunched or retroflex. Not sure which production of R is the right one to target for your student? I have a blog post for that!

Ice Cream

This little trick works best for teaching the R sound as a retroflex production. Have your student pretend to lick an ice cream cone. Tell them not to stop licking until their tongue is halfway back in their mouth. It will be a dramatic lick!


This is probably my favorite trick because it helps teach how to get tension in the tongue for the R sound, and that can be a tricky concept to teach. Cut (or bite) a twizzler so you have a piece that spans molar-to molar or a little wider. Have your student place the twizzler on the back of the tongue and push up so make a “rainbow” in their mouth. The twizzler ends should be touching their molars and the top of the rainbow should be mashed against the roof of their mouth. Have them push hard and see if they can get it to stick! Try producing the R with the twizzler in their mouth and again immediately after removing it. Be sure to remind them to make their tongue feel the same as when the twizzler was placed. You can also use red vines or any other type of licorice!

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I hope at least one of these tricks works for you in your next speech therapy session! I know the R sound can be so tricky and it’s become my life’s mission to support my fellow SLPs so nobody has to feel as lost and, let’s be honest, desperate as I used to. If you want more therapy tips and FREEBIES then be sure to become one of my VIPs! I’m always happy to share the tools I’ve picked up over the years.

Bon Appétit

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Hi! I'm Lindsey!

I’m a pediatric SLP who specializes in the R sound. Fun fact- I actually used to dread the R but after dedicating a lot (like… a lot a lot) of time to researching and troubleshooting… I now love it! So much, in fact, that I currently spend my days treating “R kids” via my private practice and creating R resources and continuing education for SLPs via Speechy Things. I’m so glad you found me! Let’s “Rock the R” together!

"Something I looked forward to every week."

“I’m so grateful I was able to work with Lindsey. As a teenager, it has been a blessing to find an SLP as encouraging and approachable as Lindsey. Her method of self reflection has really helped me realize the flaws in my speech, and through that I was able to improve. Every session was met with a smile, and Lindsey’s supportive practices made therapy not only fun, but something I looked forward to every week. Thanks to Lindsey I was able to undo fifteen years of poor R’s, and replace it with strong, understandable speech.”

- Anna, 15-year-old client

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