Sensorial Materials in Montessori

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that the senses are the gateway to knowledge.
During the first six years, the child goes through a sensitive period and is most receptive to sensorial stimulation.
The Montessori Method of education incorporates the stimulation of senses in the curriculum.
The child gathers information and knowledge from the environment. The Montessori method of education is designed to provide the children with necessary stimuli that inspire their curiosity. 

The incorporation of sensorial materials as stimuli encourages the child to be aware, attentive and entertained during the education process.
The Montessori method of education gives children the freedom to move around and interact with any material or apparatus of their choice. Each Montessori material has distinct purposes and contributions to the child’s development.
The use of synthetic and plastic materials is prohibited in a Montessori classroom. Hence the Montessori Materials are specially developed classroom apparatus made with natural substances like wood, cotton, bamboo, steel, and glass.
Sensorial training and development with concrete materials are some of the main principles of the Montessori method. These Sensorial materials provide stimulation for all five senses. 

The stimulation of Visual, Auditory, Gustatory, Olfactory, Tactile,  Kinaesthetics, Vestibular and Proprioception is facilitated with the use of concrete sensorial materials present in the Montessori classroom.

With the help of these Materials, the child is able to:

  • Concentrate 
  • Coordinate 
  • Memorize 
  • Collect appropriate information 
  • Understand Abstract Concepts 
  • Develop a sense of Order as well as Structure.

The sensorial materials are more than just a curriculum for children, they facilitate knowledge of traditional as well as a practical curriculum to children during their early childhood period. 
The Montessori sensorial materials also help the child develop refined motor skills along with gross motor skills.

Sensorial Materials for Visual stimulation

Pink Tower

The Pink Tower consists of 10 pink-colored wooden blocks that vary in size.
The Blocks range from 1 cubic centimeter to 10 cubic centimeters. The Blocks have the same color and texture. 

How it is used:
The pink tower is a material that does not require specific instructions or demonstrations, it is as simple as stacking blocks on top of each other.
The child is instructed to organize these wooden blocks, from the largest block at the bottom to the smallest on top.
How does it help the child:
When Given to children between 2 to 3 years, The pink tower provides visual stimulation and develops fine muscular coordination.
The Pink Tower helps the child develop: a deeper sense of space, dimension, and size by touching, feeling as well as assembling the three-dimensional figure.  

Cylinder blocks

Cylinder blocks also called Knobbed cylinders are wooden cylinders of various dimensions with knobs or a pincer grip that can be used as handles which usually come in a box.
The Cylinder blocks come in four different sets, each set comprising of 10 cylinders with varied sizes, heights as well as dimensions.

How it is used: 

  • The child is instructed to carry the box with both hands and then asked to take out the cylinders one by one out of the box.
  • Once all the cylinders are pulled out, the child then has to arrange the blocks in descending order in a horizontal line.
  • Lastly, the child will be asked to place the blocks in their designated hole.

How does it help the child: The Knobbed Cylinder Blocks engage and stimulate the child’s sense of touch and sight. 

Using these cylinders the child develops refine motor skills and understands the difference between measurements as well as dimensions.
With the help of knobbed cylinders, the child can make use of the three-finger grip to hold a pencil. 

Knobless Cylinders

Also called Colored Cylinders come in four sets with red, yellow, blue, green, and red-colored wooden cylinders. Each colored cylinder varies in size and dimension.

  • Yellow Cylinders: vary in height and diameter
  • Green Cylinders: vary in height and diameter
  • Red Cylinders: vary only in terms of the diameter and the height is constant
  • Blue Cylinders: Vary only in height and the diameter remains constant.

How it is used: 

  • The adult must demonstrate to the child how to properly operate the cylinder as well as the box. 
  • The child should carry the box with both hands placed under the box. 
  • First, The child is instructed to remove all the blocks out of the box with a three-finger grip, then the child will be asked to arrange these cylinders in either ascending or descending order. 
  • Once the blocks are arranged the child is asked to stack the blocks on top of each smallest being on top.

How does it help the child:
The knobless cylinders develop refined motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
The use of knobless cylinder blocks helps the child understand the difference between varied sizes and dimensions.
The child also learns about differences and similarities between the shapes. It also helps the child with coordination and concentration.   

Brown Stairs

The Brown Steps also called Broad Stairs is 20 centimeters long rectangular prism blocks that gradually increase in thickness.
The end faces of the brown stairs vary from 1 centimeter to 10 centimeters. 

How it is used: 

  • The child is asked to bring the prism blocks and place them on the floor. 
  • The child just like the Pink Tower has to put together these blocks from thicket to thinnest. 
  • The child is asked to grip the block around the thickest part.

How does it help the child:
The Brown Stairs are introduced to the child right after the Pink Tower at the age of 2.5 to 3 years. 

The child with the help of Brown Stairs attains a deeper understanding of spatial locations, units, measurements, and proportions.  

The child also develops motor skills and is prepared for future geometric concepts. 

Red Rods

The Red Rods are rods that come in varied sizes and have a square cross-section. The set of Red Rods consists of 10 rods where the smallest rod is 10cm and the largest is 1 meter long.

How it is used: 

  • Show the child how to hold the rods by griping the top and the center part of the rods with the right thumb and fingers. 
  • The child is then asked to carry the rods to the floor or a mat. 
  • Once all the rods are on the mat the adult must pick up the longest rod and ask the child to place the second largest rod next to it. 
  • The children are required to arrange the rods in proper order. 

How it helps the child:
The Red Rods come on 4th number after cylinder blocks, pink tower, and brown stairs.
The Red Rods are primarily used is to develop the child’s perception of length. The red rods also help the child with coordination, balance and expand the child’s mathematical vocabulary. 

Color Tablets

The Color Tablets are made of wood and usually come inside a box. There are three types of color tablet boxes- the first has the three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) The second has 12 colors The third has 9 colors mostly in gradients.

How it is used:

  • Teach the child how to carry the box by holding it from both sides with fingers underneath the bix and thumbs on top. 
  • The child has to place the box on the right corner of the table or the mat and place the lid of the box next to it. 
  • The child then is instructed to take out each tablet one by one making sure they only use the pincer grip to take them out. 
  • Take a tablet and ask the child to pair it with a matching tablet. 

How it helps the child:
The use of all three boxes of color tablets helps the child learn and differentiate between colors, shades, tones, and hues.
It also develops fine motor skills by promoting the use of pincer grips.

Sensorial Materials for Tactile Stimulation

Geometric Solids

The geometric solids are Montessori sensorial materials that provide a three-dimensional image of geometric shapes to children which makes these shapes more tangible.

The shapes include: 

  • Prisms 
  • Cubes 
  • Cuboids 
  • Cylinders 
  • Cones 
  • Rectangular Pyramids 
  • Triangular Pyramids 
  • Ellipsoids 
  • Spheres 
  • Ovoids

These are usually kept in a basket.
These three-dimensional shapes also come along with two-dimensional figures.

How it is used: 

  • The adult will take a shape out of the basket and place it on the mat in front of the child. 
  • The child will be asked to pick up the shape and gently feel the object. 
  • The adult will then introduce the name of the shape to the child. 
  • The shape will be placed back in the basket and the teacher will ask the child to identify the shape. 

How it helps the child:
The geometric solids are Montessori Sensorial materials that challenge the child’s stereogenic sense. With help of feeling and observing the shapes closely the child understands the nature of the shapes as well as their form. 

Thermic Bottles

Thermic bottles are cylinders that are filled with water at different temperatures.
The Thermic Bottles usually come in a wooden box containing 4 pairs of metal containers with each container filled with different temperatures of water.

How it is used:

  • The adult will place the first set of bottles and put them in a line. 
  • The adult will then ask the child to feel the bottles by wrapping their palms around the bottles. 
  • Once the child is done, The child is required to arrange the bottles in a line from hottest to coldest.

How it helps the child:
The Thermic bottles develop and refine the haptic sense of the child. This helps the child develop a sense of touch and improves the child’s memory. 

Thermic Tablets

Thermic tablets come in a box with 6 pairs of tables that are made with different natural materials like glass, cork, steel, wood, and felt.
These materials insulate different ranges of temperatures based on their texture.

How it is used: 

  • The adult will take out the tablets one by one and place the tablets in a horizontal line.
  •  Make the child feel the temperature of each tablet blindfolded. 
  • The adult will Re- Assemble the tablets and ask the child to match the tablets. 

How it helps the child:
Thermic tablets are sensorial materials that refine the child’s sense of temperature.
The child will be able to discriminate between different temperatures thermic qualities, and textures with the help of thermic tablets.

Touch Tablets

Touch Tablets incorporate different textures and materials ranging from smooth to rough. The touch tablet is comprised of five pairs of matching tablets, with each pair having different grades of sandpaper varying from rough to smooth.

How it is used: 

  • The Adult has to prepare the box ahead of time, with sandpaper ranging from rough to smooth. 
  • The Adult will then ask the child to carry the box and place it on the table. The child is then instructed to take out the tablets one by one from the box and arrange them in a line. 
  • Once all the tablets are pulled out and placed in a line, the adult will arrange the tablets in random order.  
  • The child will be asked to feel the tablets with the first two fingers, the adult must lay heavy emphasis on light strokes. 
  • The child will then be asked to match the tablets with the respective matching pair. 

How it helps the child:
The touch tablets are used to develop the tactile sense in the child. With the help of Touch Tablets, the child is able to distinguish between rough and smooth.

Fabric Box

A fabric box comprises different pairs of textured fabric materials that promote the child to feel as well as match the fabrics.
The box includes: Cotton, Jute, Wool, Silk, Leather

How it is used: 

  • The Adult will lay the fabric down in front of the child on the table or a mat. 
  • The child will be instructed to feel the fabric with their eyes closed.
  • Once the child feels all the fabrics, the adult will ask the child to match the fabric with the respective pair.

How it helps the child:
The Fabric Box is a Montessori sensorial material that develops the tactile sense of the child. It also helps the child concentrate and coordinate. 

The Mystery Bag

A Mystery bag or a mystery box consists of different objects that children are not allowed to see but, feel by feeling the objects inside the bag.

How it is used: 

  • The Adult will place real objects in a bag. 
  • The child will be either blindfolded or instructed to feel what’s inside the bag without seeing. 
  • The Child will then feel and identify the texture, weight, size of the objects inside the bag. 
  • Later the child will be instructed to further describe and identify the objects in the bag.

How it helps the child:
The Mystery bag is a stereogenic material that develops the child’s tactile sense and the child’s ability to visualize objects based on their tactile abilities and sense of touch. 

Baric Tablets

Baric tablets are Montessori sensorial materials that are made from wood.
These tablets come in a wooden box consisting of 3 compartments with each compartment containing 7 wooden tablets. Each wooden tablet varies in terms of weight.

How it is used: 

  • The adult will place one light tablet on the child’s palm. 
  • The child is then instructed to move the hand up and down. 
  • Then place a heavier tablet on the other palm. 
  • Continue placing tablets moving from light to medium to heavy. 
  • The Adults must make sure to use the terms light, medium, and heavy to build the child’s vocabulary. 
  • The goal is to let the child become aware of how things weigh differently. 

How it helps the child:
This Tactile sensorial material builds the child’s interest in different measures of weight. The students are able to compare the weights and learn appropriate vocabulary to differentiate between heavy and light.

Olfactory Stimulation

Smelling Bottles

Smelling bottles or smelling jars are Montessori sensorial materials that include small bottles/jars filled with scented cotton balls.

How it is used: 

  • The adult will fill the pairs of jars or bottles with scented cotton bottles. 
  • The child is then asked to smell the bottles and identify the scents and pair the bottles with matching scents. 

How it helps the child: The Smelling jars or smelling bottles stimulate the child’s olfactory sense. With the help of smelling jars, the child will be able to differentiate between smells. The child will also be able to identify different smells. 

Auditory Stimulation

Bells and Rings

Bells in the Montessori method are used for teaching children the difference between tones and pitches.
26 bells with varied ranges and tones are used to help children develop a sense of music and tone.

How it is used:

  • First, the child is asked to ring the bells and match them up with other bells that might have the same tone. 
  • Then the child with help of the adult guidance aligns the bells ranging from the lowest pitch to the highest pitch. 
  • Once done with arranging the bells the adult must identify each note pointing towards the designated bells. 
  • More bells will be added and the child will be asked to identify the bells with the appropriate names. 

How it helps the child: The Montessori Bells help the children identify and distinguish between different pitches and tones.
The child will also be able to play simple songs on the bells as they advance. These bells help children gain knowledge about music theory in an engaging and exciting way.   

Sound cylinders

Sound cylinders are used to develop the sense of hearing. 
These cylinders usually come in 2 boxes with each box containing 6 sound cylinders.
There are 6 cylinders that have blue on the top and 6 cylinders that have red. Each cylinder produces a different sound.

How it is used:  

  • The child is first instructed to take out the red cylinder from the box with a three-finger grip. 
  • The child is then required to shake the red cylinders three times and match them with blue cylinders with the same sound.

How it helps the child:
The Montessori Sound cylinders cover one specific aspect of the auditory sense, the sense of hearing.
They mostly come to service for children with hearing disabilities.

Gustatory Stimulation

Tasting Bottles

Tasing Bottles are Montessori Sensorial materials that include bottles and trays containing liquids the child is required to taste.
The child is given two sets of bottles with matching tastes.
The child has to identify the taste and pair the matching bottles.
The Montessori Tasting Bottles include 4 fundamental tastes: 

  • Salty 
  • Sweet 
  • Bitter
  • Sour 

How it is used:
The adult must fill the tasting bottles with four fundamental tastes using a dropper. The fundamentals tastes can be easily achieved:  

  • Salty: For salty taste, salt is mixed in water
  • Sweet: For a sweet taste, Sugar is mixed in water 
  • Bitter: Tonic water is used
  • Sour: For sour taste, Lemon is mixed in water

The children are then asked to taste the liquids and match them with the respective pair.

How it helps the child:
The Tasting bottles stimulate, develop, and refine the child’s gustatory sense and help the child identify and isolate different tastes.