One of the first Montessori-inspired materials that I made was a moveable alphabet–not because Miss I was ready to use it, but because I could acquire the materials quickly.If you would like info on how to present/use the Moveable Alphabet, two of my favorite resources are infomontessori.org and montessoriworld.org, which also hosts the Margaret Homfray videos. Scroll to the bottom if you want to skip the commentary and head straight to the instructions.
Using the guideline that my materials should be functional, attractive, and correct, I wanted to make a moveable alphabet out of something that my daughter could pick up and see the outline of each letter, and that I could cut with my Silhouette Cameo. After giving it some thought (and a trip to my local Dollar Tree) I found a pack of 4×6 foam sheets that, although thin, I think will work quite well (also available at Walmart and Amazon here and here).
Following a traditional Montessori approach, a child first uses the large moveable alphabet, which, would fit in 1-2 boxes. Depending on which Montessori style you are following, this can be a cursive/D’Nealian moveable alphabet; however Margaret Homfray asserts that the cursive isn’t necessary since the children won’t be feeling the letters. As you can see from the screenshots of Margaret Homfray below, the letters, and box, are quite large.
I, unfortunately, do not have the storage space for a box of that size, so I was thrilled when I came across this Plano tackle box, with enough compartments for my entire alphabet, at my local Walmart for about $4 (It’s also available on Amazon, though the prices are a bit higher). The model number is 2375002.
I then prepared my cut file in Silhouette Studio, with each letter having a maximum width/height of 1.5 inches. I separated the files into a consonants sheet that I wanted to cut out of blue (note: again, the traditional color for consonants is RED, but my kids love blue. Though, now that I have already done it in blue, I do think it would probably be beneficial to say to my kids “each word has to have a blue letter”), and a vowels sheet that I wanted to cut out in red (Note: in my files, I decided to put my y on the red vowels sheet. This is breaking from standard, and if you want yours on the consonants sheet, please copy and paste).
I set the blade to a 9, the speed to a 1, and my thickness to a 30, and my Cameo did a pretty good job cutting through everything, though I did have to “punch out” a couple of letters that didn’t cut all the way through. I had already used the blade for a few (about 5) Vinyl projects previously, so it was still fairly new, though not fresh out of the package.
My daughter loved helping me pull the letters off of my cutting mat, and helping me to place them in their spots in the tackle-box, and we’ve done some matching to our sandpaper letters, but we haven’t used them as a moveable alphabet yet. I think in my ideal world, I wish the dividers in the tackle box weren’t as high, so that it was easier to remove the letters, and I wish that all of the boxes were equally spaced, but again for about $4, I feel like this will get the job done. I do wonder though if once we start using our alphabet we would prefer to have 2 boxes and make our letters bigger. We’ll just have to see.
For anyone interested in my cut files, or a pdf of the shapes, please feel free to contact me! I would be happy to share, and have included full instructions below. If you make your own moveable alphabet, please leave a comment or link! I’d love to hear how this turned out for you or how you changed it to meet your child’s needs.
DIY Montessori-Inspired Moveable Alphabet
- 3-4×6 sheets of blue craft foam for vowels (Walmart, Amazon, Dollar Tree)
- 4 sheets of red craft foam for consonants
- Silhouette Cameo, or other cutting device
- Open the vowel cut file in Silhouette Studio, or create a new one sized 4×6. My letters were created in 144 pt Primer Print Bold font
- Adjust the cut settings as follows:
- Blade: 9
- Speed: 1
- Thickness: 30
- Double Cut: Y
- Place a blue foam sheet on your cutting mat and feed into the Silhouette
- Test cut in the top left corner to ensure proper cut settings for your blade
- Send to Silhouette
- Remove the letters and the negative.
- Repeat steps 3-6 so that you end up with 9 of each vowel
- Open the consonant cut file in the Silhouette Studio, or create your own (Note: if you would like the y as a consonant, copy and paste it from the vowel file)
- Please a red foam sheet on your cutting mat and feed into the Silhouette
- Adjust the cut settings if needed, to match those in step 2
- Send to Silhouette
- Remove the letters and the negative
- Repeat steps 9-12 until you have 4 of each consonant
- Place the letters in your box, and enjoy!