A moveable alphabet is a magical thing for a small child. Moveable alphabets let kids play with words–they don’t just read (although they will!), but they also create, and compose, and develop a sensory understanding of the ability of letters to be manipulated.
Not all kids have a moveable alphabet of their own to play with, but they should. Kids with parents who have the time and energy or money and energy to provide them with pre-reading supplies to enrich their learning shouldn’t be the only kids who have pre-reading supplies to enrich their learning. Kids without this stuff should be given it by someone else who has the time and energy to provide it.
As far as crafting for charity, moveable alphabets are dead easy to create. They can be made from anything–fabric scraps, smooth stones, old crayons, and slices of tree branch are just a few of the billion possible materials that you can use.
When I first planned this article for Blog Action Day (this year’s theme is Inequality), I thought about organizing a moveable alphabet drive for y’all, with donations going to the food pantry that my kids and I volunteer in. And then I thought, “Dude, EVERYONE’S community has a food pantry!”
And so here’s what we’re going to do–we’re not going to make moveable alphabets to donate to MY community; we’re going to make moveable alphabets to donate to YOUR community. Well, I’m still going to donate to my community; you’re going to donate to yours.
Curious about who might like to receive a moveable alphabet? If you’d like to make and donate one alphabet, try asking these places:
- Head Start
- public preschool, kindergartens, or first grade classrooms
- free clinics
- day care programs
- women’s and children’s shelters
Also think about any other place where children are often asked to wait while their parents are filling out forms or attending meetings, places where there might be a little table and a couple of toys or coloring books set aside to entertain kids–a single moveable alphabet can entertain a LOT of kids if you put it somewhere like that, and check on it every now and then to replace missing letters.
If you’re feeling more ambitious, here are some additional ideas for places that might also appreciate as many moveable alphabets as you can muster, especially if you can package them in a simple drawstring bag so that kids can take them home to keep:
- food banks (can be offered along with groceries)
- social workers (can be offered to families who could use them)
- shelters (can be offered to resident children)
- ESL programs (can be given to students)
If you’re feeling a superhero’s amount of ambition, consider packaging a handmade moveable alphabet into a homemade bag or backpack along with paper and colored pencils and several attractive picture books (thrifted books are eco-friendly books!)–you’ll have yourself an excellent literacy enrichment take-home bag that many preschools, day cares, and programs that service children might like to receive.
While you’re letting that stew and thinking about possible recipients, let’s get into the really fun part–the crafting! I’ve written about moveable alphabets before (I love them, and am convinced that they’re great for kids, and will, as you can see, happily take any opportunity to talk about them), so here I’ll condense down my many, many favorite tutorials into the quickest, easiest, and cheapest ones. They all look cute, but if you’re going to give away your craft, then you might as well choose the one that you can make ten of in the time that you might otherwise make one.
1. cardboard tile alphabet. These aren’t the absolute cutest, but if you’ve got a lot of donations to make, you can whip out dozens of sets in the time it would take you to make even one of the other alphabets.
2. felt alphabet. You can use stiffened conventional felt or regular wool felt for these. Go crazy with your felt choices, because the more bright and colorful they are, the better kids will like them! These also have a tactile component to them, thanks to the puffy paint, and you can make them as large as you’d like–check to see if your community has a program for kids with low vision, because this is the perfect moveable alphabet for them.
3. recycled crayon alphabet. If you’ve already got the alphabet molds, this one is about the easiest that you can make. They’re really fun for the kids, but they do break, so consider making two sets for each donation.
4. rock alphabet. If you can find the rocks, all you need is acrylic paint and the sealant of your choice to turn them into an attractive alphabet. Kids LOVE the feel of this one!
5. tree branch alphabet. You could paint on these, too, but wood burning them is even quicker, and adds yet another tactile element of reinforcement.
When you make an alphabet to donate, post it in the Comments and send me a photo! I guarantee that I’ll be as excited to see it as your future reader is going to be to receive it.