Friday, February 20, 2009

My homemade Moveable Alphabet

This is how I made my homemade Moveable Alphabet :) As mentioned here.
I bought a set of scrapbooking letters (if you are reading this in Australia - they were from Spotlight & called 'Sweets' in a range called 'Basic Grey - Undressed'). The set was only $11.95 for 160 diecut chipboard pieces. The tallest letters are 4 1/2 cm tall. 

The paint and brushes I had on hand. I just used water-based acrylic paints that the boys use. Following Montessori principles I painted all of the vowels in blue and the consonants in red.

Voila! Ready to be 'punched out' (easier said than done - that was a bit of a time consuming job- and where I got the sore fingertips I'm sure :) and now it was time to think about the box.

This is the timber puzzle frame that I used as the basis for the box (it had been living on our puzzles shelf) and some strips of 4mm chipboard that I had cut at the hardware store. The frame is 11 mm deep and the strips were cut to match.

This is the lovely man at the hardware store :) When I explained what I needed he looked around, couldn't find anything quite right & then offered to cut this huge board for me with his electric saw. Aside from being really helpful he only charged me $2 for the strips of board and the cutting and his time. I love living in a country town!

The next favour I had to call in was from Hug. He gave me access to his special wooden tool kit (the one he got for his birthday from T and I). Thanks kiddo ;)

Work in progress. I measured my frame and cut 4 long strips to cover the width of the box. You can see my accomplices and their trucks in this photo. Hug has been home from school with a bad cold so we were all hanging out on the back verandah doing our thing. 

The 22 short pieces that I needed. Eeek! Was I ever glad when I'd got these pieces cut. I sanded them off lightly with the sandpaper block. 

...and glued them into place. Sure, it's a little wonky but I'm happy with how it has turned out. I did begin to make measurements for spacing out the sections but in the end it was much easier to put all of the pieces on the board and just go by feel. I used 'Tarzan grip'.

The final touch. I made a lid with a piece of thick cardboard I had in my art cupboard (strangely I found a piece that fitted perfectly - I didn't even have to cut it!). I taped it at the top to the box frame to create a swing-top lid and then used a piece of elastic to secure it closed at the bottom.

Phew! It has been a big project today but I'm very happy (if you hadn't noticed ;) seeing that 24 hours ago I wasn't sure what to do. Now, I just have to work out how best to present it to Hug. He has used the Moveable Alphabet before (last year at his Montessori preschool) but I do feel that we should go over the letter forms first especially as he's clearer on his capitals than the lowers... so I'm thinking now that maybe I've got to get onto making some Sandpaper Letters!

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Comments :


  1. WOW! That looks beautiful - worth every bit of your hard work and makes a much better (cheaper and more personal) resource than anything you could buy.

  2. Yay! You are a rock star! You and Hugs are both going to love the lowercase moveable alphabet! I'm sure you're already imagining all the activities you can do with it - probably more than you would have if you had just bought it. :)

  3. That is so awesome! What a great job you did. And it's so good for your sons to see Mom problem-solving and creating something using repurposed things. VERY COOL!!

  4. I absolutely love it - you are so cool! Hug is going to have a lot of fun!

  5. Neat movable alphabet AND really neat wooden tool kit!

  6. Wow - unbelievable! I am totally inspired! What a wonderful idea. I've been thinking that I need a set, but wondering how I could make it. I love the idea to use the set of chipboard and painting it!

  7. I have been thinking what I would do if I were in your position with Hug recognising the uppercase letters better than the lower case. As you don't have sandpaper letters (yet - I give you 2 days, Mrs Superwoman!) I would start by finding out which lower case and which upper case letters he recognises. If he recognises all the upper case then I would do 2 things - 1. make a matching game - matching upper case to lower case letters. That follows the Montessori philosophy of always working from what the child knows. No. 2. would be to hace a sand tray (or salt) so that when you do introduce a lower case letter to hug he has the opportunity to make it in the tray. Although you don't have the sandpaper letter you can still give him a physical impression of the letter which will get it into his brain!

    Hope that helps a little

  8. Wow - thanks for the wonderful support! It's so lovely to be receiving all of this good energy & feedback from 'out their in the stratosphere'! I am really grateful :)

    Anna - I can't believe that someone's been pondering my situation - ahhh! love it :) 2 days.... Hmmmm... I love a challenge! I'm just stuck on what to use for the background pieces for the Sandpaper Letters... I don't want to just use cardboard & don't want to have to cut each piece from a big board (my sawing isn't that hot!) so some sort of pre-cut pieces would be perfect... but what/where from?

    I love the idea of using the salt tray & matching game, thanks...

    I also like the idea of systematically working out which letters he does & doesn't easily recognise. I actually think that he probably recognises both lowere & uppercase but it's more about what he *chooses* to 'write' with - which seems to always be caps. I don't think I've ever seen him write his name in lowercase but would have seen it in caps a thousand times! Hey, that is probably a good place to start!

    btw - I can't click on a link for you - you don't have a blog?

  9. No, I'm afraid I don't have a blog - my husband might get very upset if I spent any more time on the computer!! The school I work at will soon have a wonderful web-site though!

    As for writing his name - how about teaching him to write it joined up? It isn't as mad an idea as it sounds. Start by making a laminated card with his name on and then have a go with the sand/salt tray. If he's getting into writing then he might want to copy your writing about anything he's interested in. If you only use lowercase letters that's what he'll copy. Our kids at nursery/school copy words all the time - it's how they learn to write. It's part of the writing before reading thing that Monessori talked about.

    So good luck with the letters. I would just use stiff card - red and blue like the lma and use glue to make the shape of the letter and spread sand over the glue and shake it off. If it's only Hug using them they will be strong enough.

  10. Those are beautiful. I love your black and white photos too. :)

  11. You are so very talented! Good work! Thanks so much for sharing! Miri

  12. Hey! For anyone who is interested I just found this gorgeous version of the Moveable Alphabet tonight on the (brilliant :) blog 'Beautiful Sun Montessori' -using printed, laminated letters & a wonderful felt pouch. What a cool idea. If I hadn't just slaved on this baby I'd be making one!

  13. Another homemade Moveable Alphabet (from the blog Montessori Spanish ) can be linked to here:

  14. It is a perfect timing to put your voice up on the topic. Your effort is really appreciable.


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