Montessori materials are quite unique and once you discover all of them, I promise you that you are going to be fascinated and never look back again. All of them are linked together while having a specific goal.
Montessori materials invite activity. Each of the Montessori apparatus brings you to explore by the forms, colours and engage all the senses to help learn.
The specificity of Montessori materials are that each of them isolates one quality. For example, the pink tower is made up of ten pink cubes of varying sizes. The child constructs a tower with the largest cube on the bottom and the smallest on top. This material isolates the concept of dimensions. The cubes are all the same colour and texture; the only difference is their size. The aim of this apparatus is to help the child feel with all his senses the variation in size by the weight, length, etc.
Other materials isolate different concepts for example, the colour tablets for the colours, the geometry materials for forms, and so on.
Moreover, all Montessori materials are self-correcting. They all engage the child to correct him-self without the need of another person intervention. When a piece does not fit or is left over, the child easily perceives the error. There is no need for adult “correction.” The child is able to solve problems independently, building self-confidence, analytical thinking, and the satisfaction that comes from accomplishment.
“The child’s conquest of independence begins with his first introduction to life. While he is developing, he perfects himself and overcomes every obstacle that he finds in his path. A vital force is active within him, and this guides his efforts towards their goal.” (The Absorbent Mind, Chapter 8, p. 83).
As the child’s exploration continues, the materials interrelate and build upon each other. For example, various relationships can be explored between the pink tower and the broad stair, which are based on matching precise dimensions. Later, new aspects of some of the materials unfold. When studying volume, for instance, the child may return to the pink tower and discover that its cubes progress incrementally from one cubic centimeter to another.
“We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.” (Maria Montessori – Education for a New World, p. 69
In a Montessori environment, teaching and learning materials are arranged on low and open shelves to encourage the child independence and invite him to learn. The aim of this structure is to help children choose whatever materials they would like to use and they can work with them for as long as the material holds their interest. When they are finished with each material, they return it to the shelf from which it came.
Another central point to the Montessori ethos is to refer to the Materials as “Montessori materials” and not “Toys”. According to Montessori, the child does not play with them but works and learns with them.
“He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” (Maria Montessori – The Absorbent Mind, p. 25)
So it is important to have at home at least one material matching one of the five key learning areas of the Montessori Pedagogy. Some materials like the numeral rods are used in two areas, in this case the sensorial area and the mathematics one. All subjects are linked together and you always come back to a material.
Montessori pedagogy is a whole and a really beautifully intricate univers, hope you will enjoy our travel through it together.
Note: Montessori materials featured in pictures are from www.montessorisupplies.co.uk.