5-Star Educational Toys for Preschoolers: The Movable Alphabet

traditional wooden montessori wooden alphabet in wooden case with boxesA staple of preschool Montessori education, the movable alphabet is a set of letter figures that the child can arrange to form words. Traditionally, the movable alphabet looks like this (see picture at left), and is also available in cursive form (called the Montessori D Nealian Movable Alphabet).

The good news is you don’t need expensive Montessori materials to get the benefits of the movable alphabet. Any letter figures that your child can manipulate will work. In fact, the alternative alphabet sets, beside being more economical, often have additional features.

Alternatives to the traditional Montessori movable alphabet

Magnetic Letters

I believe every household with preschoolers should have lots of these around! They are great on the fridge or any magnetic surface. They’re even great in the car with a travel-sized magnetic chalkboard, and they’re an important tool for teaching reading. Be sure to order at least 2 sets so you can make words that contain more than one of the same letter.

You can find magnetic letters almost anywhere, but I prefer the Melissa & Doug brand because they do not have small magnets that can come out (although they are still small enough to pose a choking hazard and are not for children under 3).

Melissa & Doug Magnetic Wooden Alphabet

by Melissa & Doug
List Price: $11.99
Current Price: $10.44

For Ages: 3 and up
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Melissa & Doug Magnetic Chalk Dry Erase Board

by Melissa & Doug
List Price: $19.99
Current Price: $16.06

For Ages: 3 and up
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Melissa & Doug See & Spell

The See & Spell has a lot of the components of the movable alphabet (although it does not include every letter). The letters are wooden, and the word cards are like little puzzles. To complete the word, the child fits the letters in the wooden cards. Since the letters only fit one way, this activity is self-correcting.

Melissa & Doug See & Spell

by Melissa & Doug
List Price: $19.99
Current Price: $15.67

For Ages: 3 and up
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Montessori Crosswords App for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch

picture of cat and the word cat - logo for Montessori crosswords app for teaching preschoolers phonics and spellingWhile you can’t feel the letters in your hands (an important part of learning at this age), the Montessori Crosswords App does have many of the same features as the traditional movable alphabet – there’s even a Movable Alphabet mode where kids can arrange the letters any way they like with either the uppercase, lowercase, or cursive alphabet. The crossword game mode is great, too – phonic sounds are pronounced when the letters are pressed, making this the perfect app for beginning readers.

See my full review of Montessori Crosswords

Do you know of any great movable alphabet products, or do you have tips for learning with the movable alphabet? We’d love to hear them – leave a comment!

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