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The Montessori Learning Materials: Part 1

Updated: Feb 18

One of the main differences between a more traditional classroom and a Montessori classroom is the Montessori materials. These colourful, attractive, and engaging materials are specially designed to help achieve a set of learning objectives. Here at Jade Drive, your kids will find their classroom shelves full of Montessori equipment ready to be used and to be experimented with.

Here are some Montessori material from our classroom shelves. Have a quick read to find out more about these equipment and how they help your little one's education.

The Pink Tower

The Pink Tower, an iconic piece of Montessori equipment, is a foundational material from the Sensorial Area of the Montessori classroom. Stacking the cubes calls for visual discrimination, coordination, and precision. Indirectly, a child is preparing himself or herself for understanding cubed roots in later math. When beginning the activity, the child carefully takes each cube, one by one, to their work mat. As the child builds the tower, biggest to smallest, he or she might transpose one cube for another, but will quickly discover their error when the tower doesn’t look quite right.

The Large Moveable Alphabet (LMA)

The Large Moveable Alphabet (LMA) can be found on our Language shelves. All 26 letters of the English alphabet are individually cut out of wood, and ready to be positioned into words and sentences. Our little ones will learn phonetic words as a preparation for reading, writing and spelling. It is a large box with 28 compartments, one for each letter of the alphabet and two extra which can be used for the dots of the 'i's" and "j's." The vowels are in blue, and the consonants are in pink.

The Cultural Puzzles

The cultural shelf puzzles, including the horse, butterfly, leaf, frog, and more, are staples in Montessori classrooms and educational settings.

These puzzles offer engaging exploration of various aspects of nature and culture. The horse puzzle introduces children to equestrian anatomy and breeds, while the butterfly puzzle delves into insect morphology and life cycles. The leaf puzzle teaches about botanical diversity, and the frog puzzle explores amphibian biology.

Through hands-on manipulation, children develop fine motor skills, cognitive abilities, and a deeper understanding of the world around them. These puzzles promote curiosity, creativity, and a lifelong love for learning.

The Stereognostic Materials

This material can be found on our Sensorial shelves. There are eight pairs of different shapes housed in an attractive cloth bag. The child reaches into the bag and grabs the first object. The child then proceeds to find the missing pair and matches it to its identical twin. The purpose of the activity is to help children develop their stereognostic senses, the ability to identify objects based on touch alone and support their material visualization. Dr Montessori believed that children learn through their senses. The Stereognostic Materials are one of the many activities designed to help refine a child’s senses, which ultimately, is how they come to develop an understanding of the world.

The Botany Cabinet

The Botany Cabinet sometimes referred to as the Leaf Cabinet in the Montessori classroom, is a child’s introduction to the world of botany. It also offers great practice for visual discrimination of forms. This beautiful piece of material can be found on our Cultural shelves! Physically, the wooden cabinet consists of six drawers filled with leaf forms. All of the leaf ‘pieces’ are green with wooden knobs in the centre. Directly, the Botany Cabinet is a great activity for a child to develop visual discrimination. The activity relies on the child being able to distinguish one leaf shape from another. Indirectly, the Botany Cabinet offers preparation for future botany work in school, including developing appropriate language skills and investigation of the natural world!

The Brown Stair

The Broad Stair or Brown Stair can be found on one of our Sensorial shelves. The purpose of the Broad Stair is to enhance the child’s ability to discriminate between different sizes of objects. The Broad Stair focuses on differences in two dimensions only (width and height), as the length of each piece in the set is the same. Each prism differs in its thickness, such that placing the prisms in sequence creates an orderly staircase. Once the stair is built, the real fun begins. Children initially develop their visual and tactile discrimination by building a simple staircase.

After the stair is mastered, children may discover that they can align the thinnest prism in the space created between the height of each of the other stairs. They may grade the stair from the extremes or from the midpoint, or they may play distance games with the superlative, positive and comparative language describing the prisms. They may also discover some of the extensions that exist when they combine the stair and the pink tower. The engagement of this activity is endless!

The Land & Water Forms

The Montessori Land and Water Forms introduce the child to a concrete experience of the fascinating topographical features our Earth has to offer. They can be found on one of our Cultural shelves, under the Geography section. The Land & Water Forms are wooden trays that help a child recognise and name different land formations and types of bodies of water they may encounter in life. This activity often includes a jug for water, designated cloth/sponge to clean up any spills, and a bucket to dispose of the used water. As the child pours water into the mould, he or she is able to observe the places where water is and the places where it is not. The Forms that are laid out of their cabinets are the 'Island' & 'Lake' Form. Other forms included in the material are peninsula, cape, strait, and isthmus.

The Knobless Cylinders

The Knobless Cylinders can be found on our Sensorial shelves. They are the 5th material in the sequence following Knobbed Cylinders, the Pink Tower, the Broad Stair, and the Red Rods. They come in four boxes differentiated by colour and inside each of the boxes are ten cylinders varying by dimension as follows: ❤️Red: varies in diameter only (height remains constant) 💛 Yellow: varies in height & diameter (the widest cylinder is also the tallest) 💚 Green: varies in height & diameter (opposite to yellow, so the widest cylinder is also the shortest) 💙 Blue: varies in height only (diameter is the same) The purpose of these cylinders is to develop the little one's fine motor movements, creativity, concentration, eye-hand coordination and visual perception of dimension. They also provide experiences of seriation and sequence and give the child a basic language important in Maths.

The Coloured Sandpaper Globe

These globes can be found on our Cultural shelves under the Geography section. Preparation for all geography work typically begins with two globes: The Sandpaper Globe and the Coloured Globe The Sandpaper Globe is introduced to help the child develop a concept of the shape of the earth. As well as preparing the child to work with the Coloured Globe. It is very easy to distinguish tactilely and visually. The land areas in tan sandpaper, and the water as a smooth, painted blue surface. After working with the Sandpaper Globe, the child will move on to the Coloured Globe. The Coloured Globe is the exact same size as the Sandpaper Globe, and each continent is painted a different colour. The child will now focus on learning, recognising and identifying continents.

The Spindle Box

The Spindle Box is a Montessori Mathematics material that introduces counting with tangible wooden spindles. This activity is introduced after the child has a solid understanding of the quantities 1-10 and recognises the corresponding numeric symbols. This activity is introduced prior to the Zero Game and is the child’s introduction to the concept of zero. The objective of this activity is to place the correct amount of spindles in the appropriately marked box. This activity strengthens children's counting abilities and helps them associate between fixed written symbols and loose quantities.

The Colour Tablets and Boxes

The Colour Tablets are Sensorial materials found in a Montessori classroom. The main purpose of the Colour Box is to develop a child’s visual sense of colour. They assist with visual discrimination and perception of colours. They come in 3 boxes: Box 1, Box 2 and Box 3 (Pictured). The child moves progressively through the boxes starting with Box 1. Box 3 contains 63 colour tablets in seven graded shades of nine colours.

The Knobbed Cylinders

The Knobbed Cylinders can be found on our Sensorial shelves. These Montessori materials are designed to assist children in making distinctions in their immediate environment. This material primarily engages the senses of touch and sight.

The material comprises ten different cylinders with ‘knobs’ used to hold each object using the pincer grip. Each cylinder fits into a specific hole on a solid block of wood.

There are four different variations of the Knobbed Cylinders, allowing children to challenge different perceptions of preliminary mathematical concepts, such as weight and size. Each Knobbed Cylinder block differs as follows:

  • Block One: varies on height and diameter.

  • Block Two: variation is based on the diameter of each hole.

  • Block Three: varies on height and diameter.

  • Block Four: variation is based on the height of the cylinders.

The Knobbed Cylinders are primarily used to teach children to visually discriminate between dimensions. However, as competency grows, the child will be able to differentiate the cylinders with touch. The Knobbed Cylinders also indirectly prepare students for writing as they begin coordinating their fingers in a pincer grip, which is used later for holding pencils. It also lays the foundation for future work in mathematics and language as children learn words such as ‘height’ and ‘diameter’.

Rolling and unrolling a mat / rug

Rolling and unrolling a mat, a Practical Life activity, is one of the first activities a child would learn. Using a mat provides a clearly defined space for each child's work. It is important for young children to have a concrete edge to their workspace, allowing them to manage their work better. It helps them focus and to maintain concentration.

The benefits of working on a rug/mat require the child to first understand how to manage the rug itself. Teachers offer lessons in rolling and unrolling rugs, carrying them across the room and walking carefully around them without stepping on them.

These are seemingly simple lessons, but they provide a common social norm: when you choose to work on the floor or table, you work on a rug/mat, and when you see a rug on the floor, you walk carefully around it so as not to disturb anyone's work.

Establishing these norms early in the year helps to prepare the classroom for the most concentrated work. Children come to understand that their work is worth protecting, in both their attention and their physical space, and to offer the same courtesy to each other as they navigate through the shared classroom.


Do keep an eye out for part 2 of this article!

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