The Movable Alphabet and New Writers

Big things are happening in our house right now with Nora. She is in the midst of a language explosion. And, I don't mean spoken language - but written language. At just under 5 years old, she has been sounding out words and doing some basic reading and writing for the last several months. But, all of a sudden there is an intense interest and seemingly endless energy for all things writing. 

The amazing thing is that this is all happening without a pencil and paper thanks to the wonderful Montessori movable alphabet. The movable alphabet material is quickly becoming one of my most favorite Montessori classics. It allows a child to write before their hand is ready to do all the work. Using the small alphabet tiles a child can string together words, sentences, and whole stories. Whereas, if Nora was asked to write a full sentence, it would take so much work for her that her ideas would be gone. (The physical act of writing is also worked on in Montessori, but as a different skill with other materials.) 

The Montessori movable alphabet can give young children the tools they need to write well before they are able to write with paper. Here are some common questions and some movable alphabet options.

Typically, I don't think it's necessary to have a ton of Montessori materials at home for your child, especially if your child goes to a Montessori school. But, the movable alphabet is one of my exceptions. I think when your child is in this writing explosion, that desire doesn't stop at the doors of the school. Plus, there are so many great options, in a range of styles that make the work different enough from the work available at school if you are worried about duplicating work. 

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When Is My Child Ready for a Moveable Alphabet? 

One common question about the moveable alphabet is when to introduce it. Since Montessori follows each child,  I can't answer this in relation to your child. It will have to be based on your child's readiness - typically around age 4 to 5 is prime moveable alphabet time. But for my own, I have 3 things that I wanted to see happen before we introduced at home: 
  1. Nora had mastered sound games and had a very good ear for sounds. This really deserves a post of it's own. But, I wanted to make sure her ear was ready for sounding out words. 
  2. Nora had a good grasp on sandpaper letters and the sounds that each of the letters of the alphabet make. To get to this point, we played games here at home and prepared our environment for letter learning
  3. Nora had received the presentation at school. This is the one that might significantly change for you depending on if your child goes to a Montessori school. I didn't want to undermine the observations that her guide was making. So, once she received the presentation at school, I spoke to her guide about trying one here at home, and she thought it was a great idea.  
The Montessori movable alphabet can give young children the tools they need to write well before they are able to write with paper. Here are some common questions and some movable alphabet options.

Cursive or Print? 

Another common question is whether to start with print or cursive letters. Again, this could be a post of its own, so I will only answer in relation to the movable alphabet itself. For us, I actually had a print movable alphabet from when Henry was this age. At first I tried to introduce it to Nora - who does only cursive at school - she wasn't at this point able to translate the letters. It became more of a burden than a help. So, I replaced it with a cursive alphabet, and off she went! 

So, my advice for cursive verses print is to stick with what your child knows. If you have been introducing print (via the sandpaper letters, for example) then stick to a print movable alphabet. If your child has been learning cursive, stick with cursive. 

Where Can I get One? 

There are so many options when it comes to moveable alphabets! They come in a range of sizes, materials, colors, and fonts. I have highlighted a few different options here for both print and cursive. These are no where near an exhaustive list. I personally would, however, try to stick to one that separates vowels and consonants by color (unless you have an older elementary child, and then you can find them in solid colors). I also prefer organizing the letters instead of having them all in one bucket/container. This can easily be done with a box - like this

Here are some options to consider if you are looking for a movable alphabet: 

The Montessori movable alphabet can give young children the tools they need to write well before they are able to write with paper. Here are some common questions and some movable alphabet options.
Print Options


The Montessori movable alphabet can give young children the tools they need to write well before they are able to write with paper. Here are some common questions and some movable alphabet options.
Cursive Options

Paper Cursive | Magnetic Cursive (we own these and the colors are darker than they appear) | Wooden Cursive with box |  Cursive with Configured Box (this is the one we own) | Free Cursive Printable 

Whatever you decide is best for your home, using a movable alphabet really can open up a whole new world for your child! And, it's amazing to see! 

The Montessori movable alphabet can give young children the tools they need to write well before they are able to write with paper. Here are some common questions and some movable alphabet options.

Have you introduced a movable alphabet in your home? Have you been as amazed as me at all that your child can express with one? 

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