Monday, June 21, 2010

The Alphabet Box - Part I

~click here for Part II~

Several of you have written to me asking about our alphabet box - what's in it, where did I find the little objects, how we use it. I'm more than happy to finally answer your questions! In fact, I can't believe I haven't devoted a post to it sooner because it really is such a fun learning tool.

::For those of you who don't know, an alphabet box or sound pouch* is simply a tool used to teach children sound recognition by using pictures and/or objects. There's a container for each letter and inside each container are about 6 (give or take a few) objects, each beginning with the sound of that letter.::

I've decided to split my answers to your questions into two posts. I tried writing everything in just one post and it was just way too long. So, first, I'll share what's in our box - yes, that means there are lots of pictures for you to look through. :) I'll also give you some ideas and resources for where you can find your own teeny tiny goodies and how you can create your own alphabet box. Finally, in Part II, I'll explain how we use our box for learning and I'll have a little giveaway (click here for the giveaway!), as well!

Here we go...

The contents of our box, from A to Z...

A: apple, astronaut, alphabet, alligator, ant
B: ball, bowl, butterfly, bird, book (Bible), banana, buffalo, bee

C: car, cork, cat, cow, card, candlestick, clock, crab
D: duck, dog, dice, dolphin, dinosaur

E: egg, Eskimo, elephant, envelope, eight
F: feather, fence, frog, flag, fish, flower, football, flipper

G: golfclub, gorilla, guitar, grapes, gold
H: house, hat, heart, hen, hand, hanger, horn

I: igloo, Indian, in
J: jack, jewels, jug, jar

K: kettle, kite, kangeroo, key
L: lanturn, lobster, lamb, lid, leather, leaf, lego

M: monkey, mouse, moose, marble, milk, millipede, mug
N: nail, needle, nine, nickle, nut

O: octopus, olive, otter, octagon
P: pumpkin, penny, piano, present, pig, pin

Q: queen, question mark, quartz, quilt, quarter
R: ruler, ribbon, ring, rabbit, rose, rock

S: spring, sponge, spider, snowflake, stamp, sun, spoon, sunglasses, strawberry, star, sewing machine, spool
T: tiger, triangle, tree, trumpet, turtle, two

U: underwear, umbrella, (James') uncle :)
V: violin, valentine, vase, vacuum

W: wagon, whale, watermelon, wood, wheel, walnut, walrus
X: ax, fox, box, wax, x-ray

Y: yellow, yak, yarn
Z: zero, zipper, zebra, zig-zag

Next I'll share some tips, resources and ideas on how to make your own alphabet box.

First, the sounds:
Before you begin searching for fun little objects, I recommend you read the little chart I've created below so you know the proper phonetic sound pronunciations for each letter. You may have the cutest little orange for your O drawer, but it won't work because the phonetic sound for O is quite different. Momtessori posted a helpful video of the sounds, so give that a quick look as well.

a - apple
b - bat
c - cat
d - dog
e - elf
f - frog
g - gum
h - hat
i - igloo
j - jet
k - kite
l - lemon
m - mom
n - nut
o - octopus
p - pig
q - queen (sounds like kw)
r - rat
s - snake
t - teacher
u - umbrella
v - violin
w - watermelon
x - box (sounds like cks)
y - yogurt
z - zipper

Second, the box:
I found ours in the tool section of our version of a Lowes. It's one of those multi-compartment units used for storing nuts and bolts and the like, which you can find at almost any hardware store. Sadly, gray was the only color option I had. I tried to jazz it up with letter stickers from my scrapbooking stash. :)

*You don't need to limit yourself to a box - if you're crafty and willing to devote some time, why not make individual sound pouches, one for each letter? Jojoebi did an amazing job at this - check out her photo stream here. It's my hope to eventually transfer out of the box and into some homemade pouches. They look so much nicer!

Third, the contents:
You'll want to create small letter cards for each drawer. I think it's important to create a card for both capital and lowercase. Here are some options:
  • I've uploaded a free template for you that has the proper font (e.g. the letter 'a' is written as a child learns it and not as it appears in the font I'm using on this blog) - click here for that template.
  • Another idea is to use letter stickers and just apply them onto cardstock.
  • Or, instead of making cards, you can use puzzle letters, foam letters, magnetic letters or letter beads.
  • Also look at a scrapbooking store for alphabet embellishments - I'm thinking wood chips, die cuts, brads, buttons... you'd be surprised at how versatile scrapbooking materials can be!
Now, as to the tiny objects. I'm a collector (read: pack rat) by nature and it just so happens I LOVE miniatures, so creating an alphabet box of our own was just way too much fun for me!! That said, I already had quite of few of these things on hand - and I'm willing to bet you do, too!
  • Take a look through your children's toys (look to Barbies for those little hats, gloves and jackets), your tool box, your craft drawer, your office supplies, your junk drawer, your board games. Once you get started you won't be able to stop hunting for these little treasures!
  • You can also make many of these things yourself. For example, I knitted that little apple and hat and sewed the quilt and the underwear. I needle felted the olive and crafted the box, the envelope, the alphabet and the valentine. Be creative!
  • You could certainly make it very easy on yourself and simply find clip art for everything. Just print and go! I chose to do this for things I couldn't find. An excellent resource for school friendly clip art is This is an amazing site with much, much more than clip art. You'll need a membership to access most things, but believe me when I tell you the membership is sooo worth it!
  • When in doubt, buy it! My two favorite resources for miniatures are Montessori Services - click here to see their full list of language objects and Safari Ltd. for their amazing Toobs - you can buy these on Amazon, but I've seen them in stores like Michael's Crafts and Target. Another great resource is Lakeshore Learning - they have this fantastic set. One of my readers told me about this collection. Both sets looks very appealing, but are a little too pricey for me. All told I think I put this box together for under $25 - $20 for the box and $5 for the minis I purchased.
Fourth, put it all together. Add a letter sticker to the outside of each drawer, then toss all of your treasures into the corresponding space! And that's it - easy-peasy!

Remember to "stay-tuned" for Part II of The Alphabet Box where I explain how we use ours for learning and where I'll host a little giveaway, too. :)

Linking this post up to: Montessori Monday, The Preschool Corner, Sharing Time, and Tot Tuesdays.


Mama to 5 said...

wow that's awesome - I am going to start teaching my son his ABC's in august - what a great idea!
thanks for sharing!

twolittleseeds said...

Hi, This is really great. Thanks for sharing this xx

tracey (aka rainbowmummy) said...

Oh Mari-Ann, it's wonderful! Looking forward to part 2!

April said...

I have just started collecting miniatures to make my drawers. Thank you for all of your suggestions! I was having a hard time on some of the letters (j and u), while others are just too easy (b and c). I made a little index card and an invitation for the "i".

Mommy Moment said...

I just purchased our "Alphabet Box" last week!
It is a bit bigger with 3 larger drawers at the bottom. I use the extra drawers for some of our "blends" and the larger ones for some of the cards I print out!
I still need a few more items for some of the letters, but I plan to get them on our upcoming trip to Florida!
It is great that you took such lovely pictures of your items, I'll have to do this yet too!

The Mom I Want To Be said...

I love this! Thanks for posting the details. I'm going to have to start keeping my eyes out for mini things!

Anonymous said...

ohhh my word all of these little things are adorable!!! Now my question... are these helpful if your child has mastered upper and lowercase and their sounds?

Debbie said...

I've been wanting to make something like this for a long time--I've seen them on a lot of blogs. However, I've searched several hardware stores (and craft stores) here in England, and I can't find one of those boxes!!! The pouches are cute, but I just don't have the time or materials to do them. I'm also a collector (packrat) and love miniatures, so I would have so much fun doing this if I could only find a box! Going back to the US soon...I wonder if I could fit one in a suitcase...
Anyway, I enjoyed this post--great job! Thanks for sharing all the photos of your objects and all the tips.

Alone in Holy Land said...

I've been thinking about making an alphabet box for Maya for some time now. Could you believe it I couldn't find this tipe of box at any shop here in Israel? The ones I found are horizontal. I have one box though, I use for my jewelry...And also, I know now I need to actually make TWO alphabet boxes, one for the Latin alphabet and one for the Hebrew one!!!
Oh gosh, I checked jojebi's photos. She actually made 26 pouches for the phonics bags...Atta girl!
Thank you for this great post! It kind of motivates me to get strated on ours...

Anonymous said...

Great post, thank you. I hope to make something like this for my son (13 months) as he gets older. I also wish I had one in my classroom.

Another place to buy items for your boxes/pouches or even ready made kits is Primary Concepts. I have purchased several letter activity kits from them and drool over the rest of their stuff. I love manipulatives.

XYZZ said...

Thanks for linking up to Montessori Monday! Love all the pictures. Phonics objects are useful for soooo many things - so glad that you did such an informative post. :)

Deb Chitwood said...

Great post! I’m happy to find another Montessorian through Tot Tuesdays! My children loved this activity. When my son was a toddler, he called it “the fun game.” It really was one of his very favorite activities. I couldn’t believe how quickly he learned all the phonetic sounds as a result.

Insightful Brain said...

That is a perfect way to organize your letter sounds...the organization is a major weakness for me. Thanks for posting this... I'm off to the hardware/craft store to find one of those organizers!


Tam said...

love it! thanks for sharing :)

Lisa @ Our Country Road said...

I have mine about 1/2 done. I love seeing what are other's boxes. The underware are too cute!!

Jen said...

My gosh what an informative post! Thank you thank you for taking the time to create this and include all these links... so helpful!!

I can't wait to see part II and your giveaway... I'm determined to one one of these days!!

Counting Coconuts said...

Hi Lindsay,

I think an alphabet box is most useful for children who don’t know their letters or sounds, BUT I think any child would enjoy these drawers simply because of the little objects. And, if anything, it never hurts to review things already learned.

James knows both upper and lower case, too and pretty much has the sounds down pat, but he absolutely loves this box and asks for it all the time. I also plan to use it for spelling later on. In Montessori, a child will take out the objects and spell out each one in a little booklet. Of course we’re a ways off from that, but I’ll be sure to post it on my blog when the time comes!


Debbie said...

Selena would have loved this when she was learning her ABC's. What a great idea! said...

Drat! Where was this idea when my son was younger! Thanks for sharing ... please come again!

Unknown said...



Sisterlisa said...

Excellent tool! I added a review of this and your blog to my StumbleUpon collection.

Carisa said...

Just wanted to let you know I finally got around to creating one of these! I wanted to say thank you for sharing so many details for such a wonderful idea! K hasn't seen ours yet, I am still working on it, but am so excited-I know he will love it!

Love and Lollipops said...

Found this via your Facebook page and can't wait to start making one of my own!

kewkew said...

Thanks for the link to Montessori Services. I knew I had seen those sound objects somewhere,but couldn't remember where. Thanks for explaining where I could hopefully find the box to store them in. For the life of me i couldn't find anything usable and I keep looking.
I'm wondering how the lady who made the pouches stores the pouches and makes them available to the child(ren).

Amber said...

WOW I love this! I am debating on making my own or purchasing one from Lakeshore. Here is a link to it.

Deb Chitwood said...

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Mari-Ann! I love your alphabet box! I featured your Alphabet Box posts and your photo from part II in my DIY Alphabet Box post at

NabihaW said...

Thank you for sharing this post as well your printable..I've had so much fun making our own alphabet boxes! I've linked back to you in my post here -

Kerridwen said...

I LOVE your blog! It really inspires me. I am also writing a blog that shares my experiences as a homeschool teacher - Beyond Gold Stars. I think one of the free resources I offer on my blog is something that would really compliment your alphabet box! :) I remember you saying that your son also likes to do worksheets (along with using all these beautiful hand-made manipulatives).

On my blog, you can find free printable cards with great pictures to be sorted by initial consonant.

Shell said...

This is wonderful inspiration. Thank you, I can't wait to try it on my son.


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