Learning Materials

This page offers information about some of the materials used in the Montessori classroom and the activities in which your child will be involved. Young children classify the input to their senses from the world around them every minute of the day. The Montessori Materials help them to gain a deeper understanding of these impressions. By manipulating the materials a child gains a deeper insight into the nature of the lesson. Be sure to click on the topic buttons below to see samples of the learning materials.

Maria Montessori calls these materials "Materialized Abstractions."

Please use the color coded tabs to view the different learning materials.

  • Practical Life
  • Sensorial
  • Language
  • Math
  • Geography/Culture
  • Science

Practical Life Learning Materials

The area of Practical life is the beginning of life in the Montessori Classroom. The activities are made up of materials that are familiar to a child from his home environment. For this reason he may immediately relate to the things that he sees. She may see these objects as the means to become more like the adults in her home.

Nurturing independence is at the core of the Practical Life curriculum. Children who are struggling to accomplish a task are given the time and space to do it themselves. If they need help, they are given only the assistance they need to complete the task on their own. For example, if a child cannot open a container, the teacher opens it just enough so that the child can complete the task on her own.


Washing, hands, face, teeth

The child derives great pleasure from taking care of her own needs like washing her hands

Dressing Frames

These frames were developed to assist the child in the skills of buttoning, zipping, snapping, and tying bows to that they can become independent in dressing and undressing themselves. Braiding is a more advanced activity that the child can undertake

Cleaning of personal items (clothing, shoes)

Brushing hair, blowing nose

Sewing, buttons, repairs, art (needle point, embroidery, weaving, and crochet)

Social Relations, Grace and Courtesy

Grace in movement, carrying things, placing materials back on the shelves is modeled by the adults in the classroom and encouraged always by gentle reminders and demonstrations.

Manners are stressed at all times. Table etiquette, bathroom procedure, how to interrupt, cough & sneeze into your elbow, are part of the daily routine. Making and serving snack is also part of the daily routine.

Control of Movement

Pouring, spooning, tonging, use of a screwdriver and other tools help the child to learn to control his hands and eyes and give him. Walking on the line, the silence game, carrying objects, balancing, catching etc are practiced daily.


As the child begins to see order in her environment she begins to develop an awareness of the things around her. At that time the child is given responsibilities within his school room and outside environment. These activies continue the child’s development of a sense of order, pride and community awareness. These exercises are the same all over the world yet distinctive in the implementation and tools used.



Plant Care

Flower Arranging

Washing Dishes


What more can we say!


"There is nothing in the intellect which was not first in some way in the senses" -Aristotle

Young children classify the impressions they get of the world around them every minute of the day. The Montessori Materials help them to gain a deeper understanding of these impressions. An abstract idea that appears in the human brain appears only in direct physical contact with materials. By touching the material, it gets settled in the “muscle mind”, giving the child the possibilities of a deeper understanding of it. Maria Montessori calls these materials “Materialized Abstractions”.

Pink Tower

Ten pink wooden cubes which range from a large cube (1 cubic decimeter) to a very small cube (1 cubic centimeter) make up the pink tower.  Children learn to see and feel the concept of decreasing size in three dimensions.  Often a child will experiment with alternate ways to assemble this work.

The Brown Stair and the Red Rods

Similar in concept to the pink tower, the brown stair and the red rods demonstrate more sophisticated concepts of size and dimension. 

Brown or Broad Stairs

The Brown or Broad Stairs are ten wooden prisms increasing in square cross-section by one centimeter. 


Red Rods

The Red Rods (which vary in length from 10 cm to 1 meter) require the child to align one end of each rod to see how each rod increases in size. Here the child begins to see the concept of unit measurement as each rod increases by the length of the smallest rod.


Knobbed Cylinders

A familiar sight in any Montessori early childhood classroom is the knobbed cylinders.  There are four different sets of knobbed cylinders, each varying in dimensional characteristics.  The child learns to discern between subtle variations in width, breadth, depth and height by removing the cylinders and replacing them in the proper slots. This activity provides a clear example of  the concept of control of error.  If the child places any cylinder in the wrong slot, it will be impossible to complete the task without correcting his mistake.  The knobs require small muscle coordination similar to the skill of holding a pencil.


Knobless Cylinders

Like the knobbed cylinders, the knobless cylinders challenge the child to differentiate objects of increasing dimension.  Four sets of knobless cylinders provide the child with different dimensions to evaluate.  These cylinders are more challenging and abstract than the knobbed cylinders.  The control of error is reduced since the child does not have individual slots to insert each cylinder.  He must determine the correct pattern solely through comparison.


Color Tablets

Introduces color and refines the chromatic sense. This work begins with simple matching to the grading of shades dark to light in nine different color.


The Sense of Touch

Rough and Smooth boards and gradation tablets of sandpaper prepare the child’s sense of touch. The fabric box is a wooden box containing matching swatches of a selection of different fabrics. Experimentations with these fabric samples stimulate the child's interest in texture in the environment, particularly of different fabrics.


Baric Tablets

A boxes with 3 sets of wooden tablets made from different types of timber which vary in terms of weight. This stimulates the child's interest and awareness in weight difference.


Thermic Sense (temperature)

A wooden box containing two tablets each made of felt, wood, steel and slate. This activity enables the child to become aware of the differences in the tactile temperature of materials with different thermal conductivity in our environment.  


Sound Cylinders

Building auditory skills is an integral part of the Montessori curriculum.  The sound cylinders come in two sets of six hollow cylinders that are color coded blue and red.  The child chooses a blue cylinder and tries to match the sound it makes with one of the red cylinders.  The materials inside the cylinders are chosen to make louder or softer noises when shaken.  By using the sound cylinders, children learn to distinguish subtle changes in volume.

Binomial & Trinomial Cube 

Exploration and visual discrimination of color and form as well as indirect preparation for algebra takes place with these exercises. Although children are not yet ready to learn algebraic equations, they can see through this set of three dimensional blocks what happens when this equation is solved.  Although this activity is much more abstract and complex than some of the earlier activities, it too has a color coded control of error to allow the child to correct her own mistakes in assembling the cube.

Binomial Cube

Binomial cube is contained in a wooden box with 8 wooden cubes and prisms painted red, blue and black. The binomial cube introduces in a simple geometric set of blocks, the algebraic equation (a+b) squared. 


Trinomial Cube

Trinomial cube is contained in a wooden box with 27 cubes and prisms painted red, blue, yellow and black.  The algebraic equation (a+b+c) squared.


Geometric Cabinet

The beginning of the introduction of geometry is a wooden cabinet containing 6 trays of 4 to 6 different geometrical knobbed insets & 3 sets of Geometric cards. Introduces the child to regular, flat, geometric shapes. It also develops an awareness of shapes in the environment as well as learning the vocabulary of different shapes


Constructive Triangles

This material gives the child a practical experience with plane geometry and is a preparation for future work in math.


It is no accident that some children are good at reading and writing and others are not, that some find joy in this work and for others it is tedious. The preparation for enjoying the exploration of language in life begins before birth as the child responds to the voices he hears even in the womb.

For success in language a child needs confidence that what she has to say is important, a desire to relate to others, real experience on which language is based, and the physical abilities necessary in reading and writing. There are several things that we can do to help.

We can listen and talk to the child from birth on, not in baby talk, but with respect and with a rich vocabulary. We can provide a stimulating environment, rich in sensorial experiences and in language, providing a wealth of experience, because language is meaningless if it is not based on experience. We can set an example and model precise language in our everyday activities with the child. If we share good literature, in the form of rhymes, songs, poetry and stories we will greatly increase the child's love of language.

-Child of the World, Essential Montessori 

Pre-reading activities

Before the child can begin actual reading activities she must develop visual and auditory abilities that will assist her in this endeavor. These activities vary from auditory games, the silence game and initial sound games such as “I Spy” ( I spy with my little eye something that begins with “b”) and matching of simple to more intricate pictures and shapes.

Children match pictures for visual acuity. Objects and images are used to begin the association between beginning sounds and names.  The child learns that snake begins with a sssssss sound, that horse begins with an " hhhh" sound, or that dog begins with a "ddd" sound and so on.

Sandpaper Letters

Once children are familiar with the basic sounds, they are ready to begin working with sandpaper letters.  Tracing the sandpaper letter with her index and middle finger, this girl learns to draw the letter.  As they become comfortable with the sandpaper letters they can practice their letter writing skills in a tray of sand.  The tactile experience of drawing letters and then erasing them with a simple shake of the tray is really fun for small children.



Moveable Alphabet

This is a box containing all the letters of the alphabet. These letters are used after the child knows enough phonetic sounds to begin “writing words”. He can spell out cat, hat, mat with only 4 sounds in his repertoire. Many activities follow.


Metal Insets

This is the first of the writing activities. Dr. Montessori analyzed the movements which are connected with writing and developed the Metal Insets to strengthen the three finger grip and coordinate the necessary wrist movements.



Phonetic Objects and
Beginning Reading Activities

Children begin matching words to objects as well as writing those words with the moveable alphabet. Learning to read short words is introduced with small objects the child can hold in her hand, and is introduced once the child is comfortable with the beginning letter sounds.  Later the word challenges become more abstract and include image cards of familiar objects.


In order to learn how the written language works, a child needs to learn common letter combinations that make certain sounds.  The English language contains 96 of these phonograms.  At some point in the process of learning the mechanics of writing letters, learning beginning letters sounds, practicing phonograms and other language activities, the child has what Montessori called a “magic moment.”  Suddenly, the skills come together in the child’s mind and she begins to read words on her own.  This is an exhilarating moment for the child as the world of reading suddenly seems within reach.  Montessori students often tell people that they taught themselves to read. Indeed, they practiced and learned most of the necessary skills on their own. 

Grammar Symbols

As children build their vocabulary, they begin to sense that there are different functions that words play.  Montessori developed grammar symbols to assist children in learning the parts of speech.  Practicing creating sentences using grammar symbols helps children absorb the structure of language.  A black triangle represents the solid concept of a noun. Adjectives are small dark blue triangles because an adjective is used to describe a noun.    A red ball represents a verb.  The color red and the ball shape were chosen to remind the child that a verb is a word that communicates action.   A conjunction is a small pink rectangle to communicate a connection between words.

Language Activities

Young children have a natural ability to learn language skills that diminishes as they grow older.  Emphasis is placed on learning the sounds each letter makes rather than the alphabet.  Throughout the curriculum, children are developing the small motor skills they will need to be a successful writer and the auditory and visual tracking skills necessary for learning to read.

The Farm

This material is used as a language resource tool. It provides a setting for activities of language enrichment, grammar and reading. Children at this point may begin to read sentences and phrases and write stories with the moveable alphabet
Handwriting Practice


Handwriting Practice

Progressively more difficult writing challenges are provided to each child as they become ready.  The directress observes each child and introduces new activities when he is ready. First the child traces the sandpaper letter boards the repeats the letters in the sand tray and chalk board. Writing with chalk on an unlined chalkboard is followed by practice with writing on a lined chalkboard.  Once that skill is mastered, writing with a pencil on paper is introduced. Pre-school Montessori students often learn to write sentences and even short stories.


Perhaps, of all the Montessori apparatus, the Math Materials are the most glamorous. They are beautiful, showy, and their simplicity supremely intelligent. They give the child a sensorial experience of the abstraction that is mathematics, allowing them to store concepts so that when the time comes to deal exclusively in abstract terms, the understanding is already there.


This material introduces the child to the fixed quantity 1-10 and the corresponding number names.



The child learns to trace the numerals and say their corresponding name 0-9. This is a preparation for counting, as well as writing.



Working with the spindle box helps the child to recognize loose quantities associated with their corresponding numerals 0-9. The child counts the spindles into his hand and feels the growth of the quantity as the numbers get larger.



Once a child has mastered the spindle boxes they begin to use this material for counting. The child also is introduced to the concept of odd and even with this material




Introducing the concept of one unit, one ten, one hundred and one thousand.



Introducing the concept of 9 units, 9 tens, 9 hundreds and 1000.



Corresponding numerals are learned then matched to the bead quantities.

    SANDPAPER NUMBERS  The child learns to trace the numerals and say their corresponding name 0-9. This is a preparation for counting, as well as writing.


These materials are used for various games and mathematical operations in groups and individual activities. This is a favorite work of the 4.5 to 5 year old children. They love the largeness of it.









100 AND 1000 CHAINS



Small Number Rods


Stamp Game

A wooden compartment boxes containing colored numbered tiles with 1, 10, 100, 1000 printed on it. It comes along with 3 green, blue and red skittles.

For further advance mathematical operations with addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.

Small Bead Frame

A wooden self-standing frame with four rows of color-coded beads for the decimal system exercises.


Subtraction Strip Board

A subtraction board with a wooden box of 2 sets of acrylic number strips. It also comes with a blank strip. Provides exercises in subtraction.


Multiplication Charts & number Tiles

Multiplication charts comes with a set of tables, chart A (answers on the chart) and Chart B (blank chart) to work with answer tiles that comes in a box. To provide the child more practice with multiplication and to help memorize the multiplication tables.


With the geography materials, the child is given the facts of his physical world – that it is a sphere, that this sphere is composed of land masses and bodies of water, that these have different forms and that these forms have names. Then the facts that the land masses are called continents, and that the bodies of water are called oceans. And again, that the oceans and continents have names.

Land and Water Forms

Land Form cards help the child to begin to see the difference between land and water on the earth. Then the land and water trays are filled with water to illustrate the different forms that land and water take. This is followed up outdoors in the sand box with a real demonstration building their own forms and naming them.

The Globes

With the sandpaper globe the child learns about the land and water forms with his senses feeling the land as rough and the water as smoothe. The colored globe leads to the puzzle maps and learning about the continents then countries of the world.

Puzzle Maps

Using these beautifully crafted puzzles the children begin to identify the continents, and then the countries of the world.


The teachers utilize celebrations, costumes, flags, coins and other artifacts to demonstrate different cultures of the world.


Children have many opportunities to express their artistic nature without judgment.
One of our kindergarteners had her art work displayed at the SD Art Museum.



In the first three years of life children have absorbed a limitless wealth of impressions, taking in all the elements of the world around them. Among these are a multitude of plants and animals – an infinite number of growing things.

It is necessary to provide a mass of information to whet the children’s interest in our very appealing environment provided by the abundance of flora and fauna around them at our school. A few simple keys will suffice to animate their inherent love of the natural world, transforming this love into the need to know and understand it themselves.

Science is presented by giving the child the names and an opportunity for sensorial exploration, organizing though the use of the botany, zoology, geology and physical science.

These materials are stepping stones or “keys” to further their interest. Once a child shows an interest he is encouraged to research and write a report or draw a picture or in his chosen subject.

Learning about Plants

Children learn the shapes of leaves comparing them to the leaves they find outdoors. They also learn names of parts of the leaf, tree and flower. Experiments with plants are a part of the class projects as well as research by individual children.

Learning about Animals

Many hands on puzzles and other concrete representations of animals help the children become familiar with the names and life cycles of our animal friends.
Animals are part of the Montessori environment. We have representations of mammals (goats and dogs) we also have birds and fish for which the children learn to care and feed.

Physical Science and Geology

The possibilities of interest and study are unending in our Montessori classrooms. The children’s interests can be sparked by any event and the teachers guide them to research which can go in many different directions, magnetic, gears, sink and float, the solar system and more. The child’s appetite for knowledge knows no bounds.