school year cheat sheet

fabulous, fancy game to practice tricky sounds: s, t, r, l

It’s Cora’s Sparkle-icious your own board game

That’s what she calls is.

But I don’t care what she calls it because all I know is that she wants to play it–like every single day.  And it gets her saying words with sounds she needs to practice, so I’ll take it.

It’s actually a blank game–one that can be catered to any sound that a kiddo needs to work on–and all you need are picture cards or objects that contain sounds that your little one needs to work on.

Now that Maddy and Owen are in school most of the day, I really have time to play games that ‘count’ for Cora. She and I usually do a lot of reading, a ton of puzzles, and crafty crafts, but she’s never been a ‘gamer’.  So I know I’ve got to get tricky and sneaky if I want my tiniest to engage in any one of my games.

And that’s just what we did last week. . .

Here’s the skinny:

  • Fabulous, Fancy Game to Practice Tricky Sounds s-, t-, r, l: I’ve meant for a long while to find some ways of incorporating activities to help Cora with some of her pronunciation troubles, particularly those always-tricky s-, t-, l-, and r- sounds.

So we created an uber-fancy board, pulled out a bunch of gems and jewels and stickers, added a boatload of glitter, and topped it all off with a few of those challenging sounds–and what we created is Cora’s Sparkle-icious Game.  Or her Fancy-Nancy Game. She changes the name often.


practice tricky sounds beginning sounds gameThe blank board and the picture cards, ready to morph into a game!

practice tricky sounds beginning sounds game

I made a blank game board in the shape of a heart; I was pretty sure that though she loved her Extra-Special, Just-for-her Color Game a while back, at this point in her life, Cora would prefer something a little more. . . fancy.

coras heart game– is here to download as a pdf if you’d like.

I then searched for some pictures of objects that contained the sounds I wanted to focus on. I knew that I wanted to help her practice her s-, t-, l-, and r- sounds but having her focus on all of the difficult sounds at once might be too frustrating for her. This whole plan would backfire if it threw Cora into a frustration mode instead of a fun mode, so I had to be careful.

Knowing that she can very easily pronounce g- words, I chose to use pictures that began with letter g- but that contained some gr- blends; that way, she was secretly practicing the r- sound but also successfully pronouncing the g- sounds.  I also added some t- and s- digraphs and blends to the mix because I knew she could pronounce the lonely t- and s- but she needed work on the combo sounds.


practice tricky sounds beginning sounds game

Cora could not wait to ‘beautify’ her board game. . .

I also searched for pictures that included the beginning l- sound, which she could definitely pronounce, as well as l- blends and mid l- sounds; those gave her more trouble.  Again, I wanted her to be able to meet with success with some things but to practice those sounds that were tricky for her.

Words Their Way provided most of the picture cards (I used beginning s-, t-, g-, and l- along with some gr-, gl-, sl-, st-, and tr- blends.  However, I also found a bunch of picture cards at the Kid Zone site that can be downloaded and printed.


practice tricky sounds beginning sounds game

. . . with stickers, jewels, gems, and glitter.

I printed out coras heart game and glued each piece on a blue piece of cardstock. I then secured both sides of the heart board in the inside of a manilla folder.  I cut out the purple heart–the ‘finish line’–and placed it in the center of both hearts.

And then we started decorating.

I told Cora that since Maddy and Owen were in school, that this was a game especially for her. It would be a game where we played with letter sounds and she could do all of the decorating and make up the name of the game.practice tricky sounds beginning sounds game

An absolutely fabulous, fancy game just for Cora.

We chatted as we decorated–actually, I put the letter stickers on each game board square (upper and lowercase l, s, t, and g), and Cora added stickers and everything sparkly.  We talked about flowers and Brady and school and nail polish and her cousins and the weather, and soon we were finished.

Then we waited and waited and waited for the glitter to dry, and finally–finally!-- it was dry by the next morning. We really loaded it on.  She was so psyched to play that she insisted we play before her preschool that morning. How could I resist?

I said, Okay, my friend. Let’s hunt for the most amazing game pieces we can find. What do you want to use?

Immediately she said, Gems!

Awesome, I said. Let’s grab some.

Thanks to our Gem Jars, we always have a gazillion little shinies around, so as soon as we found ones we wanted to use, we got rolling.

I said, So the goal in this game is to be the first person to make it from this tiny heart, where it says ‘Start’ to the big heart where it says ‘Finish’.  In order to do that, you have to flip cards, say the word that you see on the card, really focusing on the sound that you hear at the beginning of the word.  Then you have to figure out what letter makes that sound, and then you have to move your piece to that letter. Get it?

She did, and she was ready to go.

practice tricky sounds beginning sounds gameEven my ladybug Cora wanted to play her Fancy-licious Game at bedtime.


We took turns flipping cards, identifying the picture on the card, and figuring out what letter began the word: Hmmmm, looks like I have a ‘sun’ here. Sssssssun. Sun. I hear the ‘s’ sound at the beginning of ‘sun’, and I know that ‘s’ makes that sound, so I need to find the next ‘s’ on the board. Woooo-hooo! Look how far I can move!

From start to finish, we worked our way around the heart board, identifying both beginning sounds and the letter that made the sound. And we also talked about uppercase and lowercase letters as well.

Cora won the first game fair and square, and I won the second. I can’t remember who won the rest because they’re all blending into one big, sparkly, glittery, beginning sound blur. . .


And that’s it–just a whole lot of Fabulous, Fancy, Fancilicous Game-playing in the name of some sneaky-sound practice!

It was fun, and it was light, and when Cora mispronounced a word–which she definitely did–I simply repeated it correctly–I didn’t stop her or embarrass her by saying Nooooo, it’s not ‘twain’! It’s tRRRRRain. Train. Let me hear you say it.  That doesn’t do any good, and I know her speech sounds will come with time. 

But like I did with Owen, little bits of practice here and there–disguised as fun and totally low-pressure–can’t hurt every now and again.

Happy game-playing-and please let me know how you adapt this game for your little ones!

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Comment (10) | Leave a comment

  1. Oh, that just gave me an idea for a game that would practice spelling and reading!

    • yay! please share when you get a sec–would love to see it!!

  2. Hi Amy! Thanks so much for this post!!! Perfect timing. My “O” is 3yo and family keeps making comments. Had him tested (Early Intervention) at 2.5yr just in case. Said he was ok. But now it’s 3-3.5yr. I reviewed your Speech Milestone doc (THANK YOU b/c SO hard to find specific letter sounds milestone info on line… understanding milestones, yes but not so much speech) and I also reviewed CHOP website etc. At 3-3.5yr, Owen can speak in complete sentences and knows what he wants to say. His trouble is dropping the first letter of word often. And also the tr- dr- etc sounds. Ex. Put the car on the ‘rack. Or let’s play ‘rains. When I ask him to stop and think, now he will say “oh yeah TRAIN on the TRACK” and so he can say the sounds. My question is: Is he within range for 3yo boy? How do I know to just let him be himself (at his pace) or is this a problem and I don’t want to wait too long? What should I be looking for? (If I read your doc correctly, most of these tough sounds aren’t mastered til later?) I know you are not going to give hard and fast “professional advice” online but just wondering if you had some advise/guidance/words of wisdom. I don’t want to hover but I also don’t want to neglect. (And family driving me crazy!!!) Thanks for all of your help!!! – trisha in bethlehem

    • Tricia!! You are so welcome. I’m glad that this may work for you–and honestly, the Speech Milestones was a lifesaver for me, too. I’d wait before really worrying about your O and his sounds; he’s so little yet, and they may come with time. Maybe play some games that isolate beginning sounds–easy, no pressure games (search ‘beginning sounds’ on the site)–and as long as he can create the sounds without stress, I think you’re fine. I am NOT a speech pathologist, though, so if he’s in preschool, ask the director or teacher for his or her professional opinions. And I think that in BASD they have early intervention like they do in many places in the US; perhaps you can call them and have him evaluated this winter or spring if you still feel nervous. That way he may qualify for services before he hits Kindergarten.

      GOOD luck and please keep me in the loop!! Thank you for reading, my friend!!

  3. You know I adore your site! And, I just about jumped for glee when I saw this post. THANK YOU! The game idea is awesome and the pdf on sound milestones was so helpful for me. My five year old son has such difficulty with saying the ‘sp’ combination sounds (it comes out at ‘f’). So, after looking at the pdf and realizing that sound combo is listed on the 9 year old page made me relax a bit. Now, tomorrow we’ll be doing some game building. Although instead of sparkles, I’m going to make a bold prediction and bet we’ll be making a bunch of superhero graphics! :)

    • Shelby! THANK you so much for your kind words–means more than you can ever imagine.. . Yay!! So glad you can relax a bit–I never understood how some s- blends could translate to f- sounds, but Owen did the same thing with ‘school’– it was ‘fool’ for a long, long time for him. PLEASE if you can share a picture of your game–I will DEFINITELY create a boys’ board for you this weekend, if you can wait. . . :)

  4. This idea is wonderful for some students of my having trouble with b,d,p sounds. Great idea thanks!

  5. Opps! mine not my. haha


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