I am not sure if it is just my kid or the letter "L", but my toddler can't seem to say the letter "L". I try to help him out and show with my mouth how to pronounce it, but he will say stuff like Wo-mein instead of Lo-mein or Wook instead of Look or Rook. I also noticed that when I tell him Woody's name from Toy Story, he says Poody. I don't know if he is just messing with me or has trouble saying the W in the context of Woody. I will point out that certain words with L such as Bottle, he says just fine. He is almost 3.

  • I doubt he's messing with you. He just has some issues some of his letters. A speech pathologist is who you want to see who can tell you how serious it is.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 4:12
  • 1
    This is incredibly common --in fact, when people want to imitate a young child's speech, they usually affect a cute lisp. That's not to say you shouldn't see a speech expert, but it's definitely not just your kid. Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 22:07
  • My 3.5 years old daughter pronounce 'L' as 'N'. I'm not sure if it is the issue or she will learn with the time. Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 2:27

3 Answers 3


If he is saying Poody instead of Woody, and Wook instead of Look, but also managing with Bottle then it appears he can say the L and W sounds, so that would rule out physical issues. Many kids do take longer with some sounds than others, and L, TH and S are pretty common ones to get to quite late.

My youngest had trouble with TH until she was 5, but we got around it by a period of correcting her every time, showing her where her tongue should be.

It wasn't much of a worry, because the paediatrician told us it was common and most kids that do have initial problems can quickly learn once they get a bit older. (In saying that I do know a few adults who never learned TH, instead using F...)

  • Note that you did talk to the pediatrician, though. For the OP, I'd definitely have your doctor do an analysis and determine if a speech pathologist should be brought in for a diagnosis.
    – DA01
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 15:19
  • Yes - in general (in the UK at least) speech checks are a regular part of the paediatric development visits all kids get.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 16:18

I'm not a speech pathologist, so take the following with a grain of salt. I have spent a lot of time concentrating on correct enunciation and being taught correct enunciation, so the following paragraph is based on that experience.

I still don't say the letter "L" correctly, it is hard for people to hear the difference now but I palatalize the consonant instead of using the tip of my tongue (unless I'm concentrating on my enunciation). The "l" sound in bottle is slightly different than the 'l' sound in "Lion", it is much more noticeable if you palatalize the 'l' at the beginning of the word rather than the end. It's possible to make a "W" sound with almost the same mouth movements as an "L" sound if you use the palate to create both, so that could be the problem there. "P" and "W", when properly formed, start with very similar mouth shape. So I think you may have two different issues here--he's not saying his "L" with the right part of his mouth, leading to the "W", and he is starting his "W" correctly but moving his lips incorrectly, leading to the "P". Watch closely how he says things (and watch closely how you form your sounds as well) and worry about it if the problem persists.

To be clear, by "persists" I mean "persists until he's 5 or so"


My daughter, just finished kindergarten (she's now 5) also has this issue, among others. (She could read at 2, so if it has anything to do with intelligence, it's because she's lazy.)

The speech pathologist has been getting her to work on putting the tip of her tongue on the "bump" on her palate right behind her front teeth instead of showing her tongue between her teeth.

Given the way her kindergarten teacher reacted and the way the speech pathologist has reacted, it seems like the best advice is to ask your child's kindergarten teacher for advice when your child reaches that milestone. If your community has speech therapists available for school kids, you'll get a referral or what have you (the therapist actually came to the school for us, so that made things easier). If not, the teacher may have other suggestions. This is likely a regular issue with kids - as has been mentioned, this is not abnormal. Some kids "get it" better than others, but it's not outside the range of normal for a 5-year-old to have difficulty with some pronounciation. The therapist will definitely know better how severe it is at that time, and will (hopefully :-) ) devise a strategy specifically for where your child is at.

Good luck, and don't fret too much. Just keep it in mind as your child ages, and if it's still an issue in Kindergarten, bring it up again there.

(If you don't have school for 4-5 year olds, bring it up with your pediatrician at around that age.)

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