Montessori is a fantastic teaching method for children to gain autonomy and learn about the things they love. If you are just getting started as a Montessori parent, you probably have some questions: “Where can I buy materials?” and “Which ones are best?” are probably at the top of your list. You can find answers to those questions right here!
All Montessori-based materials are very much hands-on to help students to become quickly engaged in learning. Things like manipulatives, sound cylinders, blocks, and even hands-on tasks are employed to create a fun and diverse learning environment.
There are lots of objects and toys that can be used for Montessori teaching, and these materials are important for parents and teachers to understand. Once you know what works, you can pick and choose the materials you’ll need for your child.
What Are Montessori Materials?
As mentioned above, Montessori materials have a fairly wide range. Manipulatives, blocks, movable alphabets, and other objects are used to teach students about counting, time, and reading. There are also tasks and activities designed to teach students about everyday things such as cooking, gardening, dressing, and other commonplace duties.
One thing that sets Montessori materials apart from others is the fact that it’s all real/authentic. Students are allowed to use real glass dishes and actual household tools. This teaches them firsthand how much care must be taken in everything they do. To give you an idea of what Montessori materials are like, here are some commonly used toys and activities:
The moveable alphabet is one of Montessori’s most common tools. This wooden, 3-dimensional letter set is a fun and simple way for little minds to start building words on their own. The letter blocks are big and easy for toddlers to use. This interactive approach to spelling makes it easy for young children to understand how to create words and understand how spelling works.
A pink tower is also a good tool for Montessori students. This is a set of ten blocks that get progressively smaller—children can stack them in size order. This activity will help young children to feel and see different dimensions and sizes. This can be helpful later on when they are learning about things like measuring and comparing.
Sound cylinders are also popular among Montessori families. Students need to tune all five senses, and sound cylinders can help them fine-tune their sense of hearing/listening. These cylinders come in varying degrees of loudness, enabling students to stack/arrange them from softest to loudest. The Montessori curriculum also utilizes things like checkerboards.
A Montessori checkerboard is used to help teach students about math, primarily multiplication. The columns and rows each represent a different value, and students can practice multiplication equations by placing beads on varying squares. This activity can really help students to visualize math problems and their correct results/answers.
Binomial Cubes are also mathematical tools. They consist of eight wooden blocks that are designed to fit together and be interchangeable. The nice thing about this particular tool is that it can be used to teach math at different levels for different ages. Little ones can learn simply by fitting the blocks together like a puzzle; doing this will help them begin to understand patterns and rules.
As children grow older, they can begin to use the cubes to visualize algebraic equations. Like the checkerboard, it is a helpful visualization of math problems, making it easier for children to understand functions and outcomes. Beads of all kinds, colors, and shapes are also used in the Montessori classroom. This means they can come individually, on single rods, or grouped on multiple rods. Beads are mathematical tools that are most commonly used to teach the decimal system.
Classification cards are used to help children learn about different objects they might find in their world. As with the binomial cube, these cards can teach different levels for different ages. The objects become more advanced and complicated as the child’s skill level grows (ex. parts of the planet earth). Each object has three cards. One with the object’s name, one with the object’s picture, and one with both the name and the picture. Students can practice mixing and matching the cards until they understand the object and its name.
Puzzle maps are another commonly used tool in the Montessori classroom. Looking at a map can be confusing and overwhelming (even for some adults!). Giving students a map in puzzle form allows them to visualize locations and their placement. It makes the world around them easier to understand and appreciate.
In addition to all the math, language arts, reading activities, and materials, there are also things designed to help students to understand everyday things. Dressing frames help students to learn about getting dressed! The frames usually come with buttons, zippers, buckles, or shoelaces. This is good practice for kids who are getting big enough to dress themselves every day.
Montessori curriculums also suggest hands-on tasks for students to perform. These are simple things like watering flowers, ironing clothes, sweeping, gluing things, pouring and scooping, or washing windows. They help students to hone and tune basic motor skills. It also boosts self-confidence and the feeling that they are capable of doing good things.
Each of these tools/activities is meant to teach students autonomy and self-directed learning. The visualized, hands-on method that each of these things employs makes it easy for young children to understand basic, necessary concepts. It allows students to quickly grasp ideas and to enjoy doing so.
Students can gain confidence and capability by doing each of these things without help. Guidance is necessary, of course, but it is mostly autonomous. Employing the Montessori method will quickly teach your children how to perform basic tasks, fine-tune their basic motor skills, and most importantly, it will teach them to love learning and to engage in it often.
Materials at Montessori Schools
All the materials listed above and lots of other things (colored cylinders, red rods, broad stair, shape blocks, etc.) are used in most Montessori classrooms. In truth, there are not a lot of significant differences between a Montessori school classroom and a Montessori home classroom.
Schools are bigger; they provide students with the opportunity to interact with other kids their age, but otherwise, a Montessori is not that different from a Montessori-based home. Teachers and parents will primarily employ the same teaching approach. They are meant to guide their students/children but also to encourage them to become independent and self-directed.
Tools, Resources, and Terminology For Parents and Teachers
We have now talked about what the students need, but what do the parents and teachers need? Let’s find out!
Believe it or not, there is a lot of Montessori content available for teachers and parents alike (including free resources). The Montessori Notebook, for example, is a site with free flashcards, activities for young kids, and much more! You can find helpful information and suggestions for age-appropriate chores, disciplinary tactics, and books that your Montessori kids will love. There are dozens of other online sources as well. Some of these include:
Each of these sites offers indexes for tools and resources, plus plenty of helpful information about the Montessori curriculum and raising children in a Montessori-based home. There are also countless books and catalogs that parents and teachers can use. One of these is How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way by Tim Seldin.
This book offers advice on creating a Montessori-based home, conducting structured at-home learning, and thousands of activities and things to try with your child. That’s not the only one out there, though. There are dozens of other books that teach you how to instruct different age groups, children with learning disabilities or differences, and much, much more.
Additionally, there is a lot of Montessori terminologies that are useful to be familiar with. These terms were introduced by none other than Maria Montessori herself. Each was used in aid of changing the way people viewed education for their children and to introduce new methods of learning as well. Here are some common terms you ought to know:
Children’s House/Casa de Bambini. This Italian term was the name of Maria Montessori’s first school. Children’s house is also commonly used as the classroom name for children ages 2-6 years old (the equivalent in most other schools is primary, early childhood, Casa, and preschool).
The Absorbent Mind is a term that Maria Montessori created referring to the time from birth to age six. This is a period of time in which intense mental activity and crucial learning take place. It allows the child to absorb learning from the world in a quick/easy way without any conscious effort.
Concrete to abstract is a term that refers to a system of the developmental progression of a child’s understanding of an abstract concept. The Montessori way allows children to first encounter abstract concepts (such as mathematical concepts like the decimal system).
Control of error means that students can receive feedback about their work progress as they go. This teaches students to correct their errors and mistakes as they go without needing adult assistance. Guidance is necessary, but if students have control of their own activities, it can increase their motivation, self-awareness, and self-confidence.
Coordination of movement refers to the refinement of large and fine motor skills and children learning to do them on their own. The Montessori method allows children to refine their movements in a very engaging way. Children are often drawn to these activities, most of which require great precision.
Cosmic education. This term came into being through Maria Montessori’s encouragement of parents to give their children a view of the universe and how all of its components fit together. Each of the universe’s parts is interconnected and codependent. Cosmic education encourages students to develop an understanding of not only that but where they fit into the universe as well.
Didactic material is a term that refers to the specially-designed materials that have a home in the Montessori classroom (many if not all of these materials were created by Montessori herself).
Freedom within limits is a particularly important term to understand, in fact, it is part of the basis of the Montessori classroom. Teachers and parents should establish reasonable limits, but the Montessori way means children can learn about what interests them at their own pace. Limits of good behavior must be made and firmly engrained in a student’s mind, but it should not inhibit the student from exercising their own free will over their own education.
Grace and courtesy is an equally important concept for students (and teachers/parents) to understand. Grace and courtesy are both important concepts that are taught in the Montessori classroom. Students are taught how to say please and thank you, how to politely interrupt a conversation, and how to warmly greet guests (whether in person or over the phone).
The final terms we will discuss are prepared environment and work. Prepared environment refers to the place where Montessori students can go to learn. The teacher or parent is responsible to stock or prepare that environment with necessary materials, activities, and work for the student(s) to do. Work, while that may sound like a serious term, simply means purposeful activity. While things like sweeping, washing windows, and pouring/scooping might seem like work to adults, children who are in their basic learning years will likely interpret these things as play/enjoyable endeavors.
Buying Montessori Materials
Now that you have an idea of how/where to start, you need to find materials for your Montessori classroom. Keep in mind that different materials have different price ranges. Amazon offers a wide variety of Montessori materials, including moveable alphabet letterboxes, object cards (aka classification cards), interactive toys for toddlers, manipulatives, magnetic puzzles, spin and read phonetical reading blocks, and dozens of other activities and tools. What you will need to buy depends on your child’s age and learning level, as well as the program you are using.
You can also purchase Montessori material kits on discountschoolsupply.com for varying prices. This site offers good deals on shape sorters, emotion photo tiles, math tools/activities, manipulatives, and number stackers. Montessori Outlet is also an excellent place to find all Montessori-related products for your at-home classroom. The outlet offers all sorts of art kits, manipulatives, and early childhood (EC) furniture. The furniture selection includes desks, chairs, cubbies, wall pegs, storage bins, cloth trees, lockers, tables, and lots of others!