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Wooden Runes DIY – Learning about Language in the Middle Ages

As we read through the books in the Magic Tree House Series we are diving deeper into them and learning more about the subjects. In book 2, The Knight at Dawn Annie and Jack journey to the Middle Ages and arrive at a castle. In today’s, activity based on the series, we are looking at one of the forms of language from the early Middle Ages and the only way that we can read what was happening. Making Runes and Using them for coding, and deciphering secret messages.

Hands-on History Learning Anglo-Saxon DIY Runes
Hands-on Learning about Anglo-Saxons from the Middle Ages

RUNES – Early MIDDLE AGES Language

During the Roman Empire, the Latin Alphabet was used to record events around the empire. However, in Nordic countries and Germanic Speaking Countries (Northern Europe and the UK) instead of the Latin Alphabet Runes were used.

With the fall of the Roman’s in the 5th Century AD, Runes became the main written language for much of the middle ages in Northern Europe.

Although having magical and divine meanings in some areas they also formed the main alphabet where names, events and more were recorded.

In the UK, Anglo-Saxons had their own version of the Runes and that is what we are going to use especially as we are lucky enough to live near an Anglo-Saxon burial site and living museum.

handmade runes for kids to learn with
Set of Anglo-Saxon Runes made by the kids


The Anglo-Saxons are one of the first eras in the Medieval Times. It starts as the Roman Empire Falls and continues through to the Viking Invasions in the 9th Century. Although the Anglo-Saxon Runes were in use from 400AD to around 1100AD post-Viking Invasions.

Living with the land in much of England they had kingdoms and kings. Stories and Folk Tales were passed down by word of mouth and very little was written.

British Museum Malton Pin.jpg
By BabelStone (Own work), CC0, Link

What was written was either exclusively in runic language or for the most important events in both Runes and Latin Alphabet.

The influence of Anglo-Saxon runes and the runic alphabet can’t be avoided today. Words like read, “ridan” (to read the runes) and write, “writan” (to carve the runes) are derived from this language.

And the reason we “spell” words is related to the magical use of runes. You used to the runes to cast a spell. So when it came to putting down the same word Spell was used for spelling out the letters to write.


To explore this early medieval language we are making our own set of runes and then using them to code words and read messages from others.

DIY Wooden Runes for Kids to make
Set of Anglo-Saxon Runes made by Kids for learning about History

We are making ours from wood slices, but you could also use clay or stones. I would stick to natural materials as the Anglo-Saxons would have as well.

Materials Needed to Make Your Own Medieval Wooden Runes

materials needed to create your own set of wooden anglo-saxon runes
Materials needed for making your own set of wooden slice runes with kids
  • Wood Slices
  • Broad Brush Marker
  • The Anglo-Saxon Rune Alphabet (see below)

How to Make your Own Anglo-Saxon Runes

By derivative work: Rursus (talk) Anglosaxonrunes-editable.svg: *derivative work: Rursus (talk) Anglosaxonrunes.JPG: riginal uploader was Jack Daniel at en.wikipediaAnglosaxonrunes-editable.svg Anglosaxonrunes.JPG, Public Domain, Link

  1. Open in your browser the copy above of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Alphabet and print off.
  2. Collect together a wood slice for each letter of the alphabet.
  3. On a slice draw the first letter of the Runic Alphabet “ ? “
  4. Flip the wooden slice over and on the reverse write the corresponding “English” letter f
  5. Repeat for all of the letters in the runic alphabet
runes for kids to learn about the Anglo-Saxon language as part of History Units
DIY Runes for Kids to Make for Learning about History

Using your DIY Wooden RUNES

Now is the time to have some fun.

spell words out in runes
Spell words out in runes like “Mum” above and ask others to decipher the secret runic code written

Use the wooden runes to make some words. As you have the letters in English on one side you can flip them over and find the runic letter to write the message in and then hand it to someone to decipher and read.

runes written in runic alphabet
You can even spell out runes with the runic alphabet you have made

Join Us Reading and Learning with the Books from the Magic Tree House Series

Would you like to join us every other week learning with the books from the Magic Tree House Series?

Every other Friday we share a fun Hands-on Activity to go along with the book plus other fiction books to read alongside as well as ideas to extend the learning further.

All you need to do to join is sign up and we will send you a welcome email as well as the plan for the first Book Dinosaurs Before Dark straight to your inbox.

More Activities to Do with Learning About the Middle Ages

books for school kids on knights, castles and medieval times
Fiction books for school kids on Knights, Castles and the Medieval Era

Add to the reading with some of the books in our selection of Fiction books about the Middle Ages for School Kids.

Skip Counting Battlements - Castle themed math activity for counting in 2's, 10's and 5's
Castle Math Activity

Work on some math skills by creating your own Castle Battlements Number Line and use it to add, subtract and skip counting depending on the skills you are working on.

loaf of viking bread cooling on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper

Why not bake a recipe straight from the Middle Ages with this Viking Bread with Free Printable Recipe Card perfect for the village chief or Anglo-Saxon King.

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