Upcycled Literacy, Part 1: Alpha-Caps

Upcycled literacy? What’s that?! It is an easy, nearly free way to help your child build their reading skills. A friend of mine (retired teacher) shared a story about how she used bottle caps in her first grade classroom.

ABC magnetsIt is hard to say what I love most about the idea.

– It is completely portable.
– If I lose a letter, I can make a new one that matches.
– It is so flexible.
– You can do this project with your child.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share more about different ways to use your Upcycled Literacy tools, but first we need an alphabet!

The Supply List

For this project you only need two things:

  • At least 26 bottle caps of the same size that look similar (e.g., all white, all blue). You’re looking for tops that don’t have any writing on them.
  • A permanent marker.

LITERACY TIP 1: Together, you and your child can say the letter name as you (or they) write it on the bottle cap.

LITERACY TIP 2: Ask your child to count the caps. How many white caps? How many blue ones? Can they count by twos?

Collect All Kinds of Bottle Caps

Once you have a full alphabet, keep collecting. First, you’re going to want spares for letters that get lost. You may also want to create an extra set of frequently used letters. All vowels, S, and T are a good start.

Last (and later on) you’re going to want a set of capital and lower-case letters.

Encourage your child to be on the lookout for other kinds of bottle caps, too. They will come in handy for future reading practice.

LITERACY TIP 3: Let your child sort the caps by different sizes or different colors. Sorting is great practice for lots of learning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get lots of bottle caps?
Putting together a collection of 26+ bottle caps is easier than you think. Even in a small household of three like ours, it only took about 2 weeks to get a set of water bottle caps to make an alphabet. Here are some other ideas:

  • Collect bottles after sports practice.
  • Ask neighbors or nearby family to save caps for you.
  • Set up a small box where coworkers to add their bottle caps.
  • Talk with your child’s teacher about collecting caps to make an alphabet for each child.

In our experience, once neighbors and coworkers get involved, you’ll be able to make lots of alphabet sets.

Do they HAVE to be water bottle caps?
Not at all! Caps from other, larger beverage containers can be very helpful, especially for visual learners. Your “basic alphabet” should be caps that are of the same size and color.

What about letters that look alike?

letter bottle caps

Great question! Some letters like C and S look the same whether they are upper or lower case. Lower case B, D, and P can be hard because they are each a circle on a stick. Even if you try to write the letters different sizes, it may not always be easy to tell them apart. Here are a few ides.

  • Use just one version of the letter and let it do double duty.
  • Put a ‘dot’ on the cap at the top or bottom of either the upper or lower case letters.

Can I glue magnets on the letters?
Sure. Put them on the fridge, let the kids use a cookie sheet. Any opportunity to play with their alphabet is a learning opportunity.

Any other questions? Any suggestions? We’d love to hear them.

Coming up in this series:
  • Letter Shapes and Sounds
  • Sight Words and Word Families
  • The Long and Short of It: Vowel Sounds