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Easy Peasy DIY Movable Alphabet

Updated on June 21, 2014

Make your own Montessori Movable Alphabet in less than 60 minutes!

The Movable Alphabet is a a classic Montessori educational material that can be used by anyone, from homeschoolers to ESL teachers.

A professional set from a fancy store will set you back at least $80, but my DIY version looks just as good, costs $5 & can be made in one naptime.

As an educator, I love my Movable Alphabet so much and seriously wouldn't be without it in a lesson. The only thing is, have the seen the price of a professional model? If you work with many children as I do, you'll need several sets and that can easily add up to a few hundred dollars. So, I came up with this easy at-home version that does the job.

I've used both a professional Movable Alphabet as well as my DIY version and the kids loved both of them just as much. Of course, if you're going to have dozens of children using this material, you should probably invest in a high quality version that will last. But this easy DIY version does the job nicely while saving a lot of spare change.

You'll need some lowercase wooden letters to complete this project, which you can find on Amazon or at your local craft store.

So, what are you waiting for? All you need are 3 easy to find materials and about an hour.

Why you need a Movable Alphabet, right this minute

As an English teacher in France, I'm always looking for hands-on materials that kids can use to really absorb the lesson I’m giving. The Movable Alphabet is my most popular activity. Students love it because they can touch, feel and move around the letters to create letter combinations, words and sentences. It’s fun, promotes movement rather than sitting still in a chair and copying stuff from a book.

It enables younger or less advanced students to create work that is far more advanced than their ability to write is. I’ve seen 3 and 4 year olds writing full sentences with a Movable Alphabet, no joke. More advanced students don’t get bored with it, though. They often ask me to take it out in order to spell a new word out, copy a word they’ve seen somewhere else or in order to write a word and flip the letters around to create new words.

Just off the top of my head, here are a few ways to use this versatile educational tool:

- trace around the letters onto paper

- hide the letters around the room and ask the children to bring you the letter you call out

- place each letter next to an item that starts with that letter. eg. place the 't' on the table

- categorise the letters into consonants and vowels

- dictate words and ask the student to spell them out using the movable alphabet

Of course, there are dozens of ways you can use this tool and you absolutely need one in your teacher's bag of tricks. Homeschoolers, class teachers, ESL trainers and special needs educators, what are you waiting for?

Instructions for a DIY movable alphabet

I feel ridiculous giving instructions for such an easy project, but here goes.

Time required: 60 minutes

Difficulty: easy

Cost: $5 - $15


  • Lowercase alphabet letters (look on Amazon or in craft stores)
  • Acrylic paint in blue & red
  • Paintbrush


1. Gather all materials, and if necessary sand the wooden letters to get rid of splinters or sharp edges.

2. Separate the vowels from the consonants

3. Paint the vowels blue, being careful to leave the 'wrong' side of the letters blank.

4. Paint the consonants red, being careful to leave the 'wrong' side of the letters blank.

5. Let the paint dry thoroughly - this shouldn't take any longer than an hour

6. Store the letters away in a box with enough compartments for each lettter. You're now ready to use your Movable Alphabet!

Making a Movable Alphabet Step-By-Step

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Keep those wrong sides blank!

WIth the Montessori method, each material must have a 'control of error'. This means that a child using the movable alphabet by themselves will be able to figure out the right and wrong sides of each letter without having to ask an adult for help. He or she simply looks at the blank side and knows how to place the letter correctly.

Buy the real deal

Montessori Small Movable Alphabets w/ Box
Montessori Small Movable Alphabets w/ Box

Can't find any wooden undercase letters to DIY your movable alphabet? Don't worry - Amazon has you covered. This version is the best price I've seen anywhere, and it has great reviews from teachers and homeschoolers.


Why red and blue?

To differentiate vowels from consonants, the movable alphabet uses two contrasting colours. You can choose to paint the vowels blue or red, it doesn't matter as long as they are different to the colour of the consonants. Some brands have pink consonants with blue vowels.

The Movable Alphabet in action

Here's a short clip showing a 3 year old girl using a movable alphabet at home. You don't need to be a trained classroom teacher to benefit from this great educational tool!

What do you think about the Movable Alphabet? - Have you used one? Would you?

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    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 

      4 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Interesting concept. I like the idea of using actual handheld pieces instead of relying on technology. The red blue idea is excellent for differentiation.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      4 years ago from San Francisco

      We do have some versions of this on our toy shelves. We also have magnetic alphabets. The grandkids love playing with them. Excellent idea! Congratulations on your feature today on the HQ DIY post.


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