Montessori Activity Review: See & Spell

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Montessori Activity Review: See & Spell

At the annual parent-teacher review meeting last year, my son’s preschool teacher was excited about his progress. He had grasped the entire alphabet sequence and perfected letter sounds as well. He was also able to identify objects based on their letter sounds. “But, did you know that only 50% percent of spellings in English follow the rules of phonics?” she told me. “The earlier they learn the spelling patterns, the better.” she said.

It was her idea to buy Melissa and Doug’s See and Spell toy. They had something similar but bigger at school. She felt it would be great to supplement what Vikram learned at school with a simple toy at home.

I ordered the toy online and received it in about 2 weeks. It consisted of a wooden box with 8 wooden boards and colorful wood letters. Each board had a picture on either side. The spelling of the object in the picture was etched next to it. The child has to choose the right letters from the alphabet pool and place it into the allotted spot to complete the spelling.

If your child is a puzzle fanatic like Vikram, this would be a great addition to your collection of Montessori materials for the home. My son also loves the alphabet, so this was a double whammy!

Placing the Words on the Board

On the first day, I just let Vikram explore the parts and pieces of the toy. I observed him from a distance. To my surprise, he was placing the letters correctly. I was not sure if he learned those spellings at school or was placing the pieces as if they were a puzzle.

So, the next day I sat with him. He was excited that I was going to play his “new favorite” toy with him. I asked him to name the pictures and the letters before placing them on the board. We also reviewed the alphabet sequence and phonics. I explained how the letters and sounds connect to form a word. Vikram did the words again and again for the next few weeks. This repetitive play helped him properly learn the 16 spellings on the boards. (Learn more about the Montessori Method at home.) I decided to go slow and did not introduce any new spellings for the first few weeks.

However, I was already seeing a change. I could see that he was getting interested in spelling new words. We would discuss spellings while driving in the car. He was also trying to read the signs and billboards along the street.

After a few weeks, I introduced some new words and spellings to him. We still used the same See and Spell toy but not the boards. We learned the new words by placing the letters on the mat. The possibilities were endless now.

Jumbled Words

Vikram is five years old now and we have been using the See and Spell for a year. His interest, however, has not worn out. That’s likely because we have frequently updated our play according to Vikram’s age and abilities. Instead of using the letters to spell the words, we now use them to play games. I jumble the letters and ask him to make new words with them. If he spells a three letter word like “cap,” I give him an extra letter such as “m” or “s” and ask him to add it to the three letter word to make a new word. We also try to make small sentences with the letters.

My son can read simple books now and the See and Spell toy has played a big role in his progress. The removable letters have helped me come up with creative ideas to teach language arts to my son. I can get his attention easily and maintain it for longer periods of time. I do not think that such a captivating and interactive experience would have been possible with conventional tools such as books. It made learning a fun experience for both of us. We still look forward to our “alphabet game” time each week.

See & Spell by Melissa and Doug

This toy inclues a wooden box with 8 wooden boards and colorful wood letters. Each board had a picture on either side that represents a word, which the child recreates by choosing the proper letters from the alphabet pool. It is well crafted and follows all the required safety standards, and can be stored easily in the box with separate areas for the letters and boards. sells both new and used versions of this toy.  Buy your own on


About Shamala

Shamala is a big believer of the Montessori system and has a five year old son in kindergarten at a Montessori school in California. She is also a freelance writer with more than five years of experience in web content writing.

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