When you first start exploring the Montessori methods, there may be a lot of unfamiliar terminology. One common term that comes up a lot is Montessori Manipulatives. So what are Montessori Manipulatives, and do they really help a child learn various skills?
Montessori Manipulatives are materials used to teach a specific concept in a concrete form. They help children understand abstract ideas. They look like toys most of the time because Montessori methods encourage guided play, and they are made out of natural or plastic materials.
There are many Montessori Manipulatives to choose from to help your child learn various skills. We’ll discuss some examples, as well as their purposes, below.
What Are Montessori Manipulatives?
Montessori Manipulatives are materials that are used to teach various concepts in a concrete form. Each material teaches one concept, and they are great tools to use when teaching children abstract ideas. They are materials that are designed to teach, and many of them were designed by Italian physician Maria Montessori, the inventor of the Montessori Method.
The manipulatives look like toys so that the children are drawn to them and want to use them. Montessori Manipulatives are typically used to teach fine motor, sorting, matching, and other skills.
Montessori Manipulatives are typically made out of natural materials, but the materials that they are made out of depend on where you purchase them and what item you purchase. If you purchase the Montessori materials from mainstream shopping websites, they will likely be made out of plastic or some other material. If you purchase them from smaller businesses, then they are more likely to be made out of natural materials such as wood or fabric, but that varies depending on the item and the seller.
What is the Montessori Method?
The Montessori Method is a method of education that encourages children to be independent and guide their own education. It teaches children physical, mental, emotional, and social skills. (source) The Montessori method also helps children develop concentration skills and improves their coordination.
The Montessori method teaches that children are naturally eager to learn and are capable of learning by themselves when they are in an environment that promotes learning. It allows the children to be independent while learning. The Montessori method uses very hands-on materials to teach various subjects like math and science. It typically uses number rods and spindle boxes to teach basic mathematical and scientific concepts.
The Montessori Method does not use traditional teaching methods, and most teachers in a classroom that uses the Montessori method are very hands-off. They allow the children to seek out activities that are interesting to them and use Montessori materials to learn and play at the same time.
Montessori Manipulative Examples
Hex Bolt Board
The Hex Bolt Board is a wooden board with holes that fit four hexagonal-headed bolts and a hex nut driver. This toy allows a child to screw the bolts into the board. The bolts screw into a metal sleeve rather than the wood of the board to make the board last longer and prevent the wood from becoming stripped by repeated screwing and unscrewing.
It was designed by a teacher who uses the Montessori method. It helps teach children hand-eye coordination. it is considered to be one of the easiest Montessori manipulatives to use. The Hex Bolt Board set costs $50. You can purchase extra bolts on the Montessori Services website if any of them get lost.
Slotted Bolt Board
The Slotted Bolt Board is very similar to the Hex Bolt Board but is slightly harder to use and is made to be used by a slightly older child. It is a wooden board that has 4 slots for bolts and comes with a stubby screwdriver meant to fit into a child’s hand. It was designed by a teacher who practices the Montessori Method.
It is meant to help teach a child hand-eye coordination and teach them how to screw in items. It is slightly smaller than the Hex Bolt Board, and the bolts are screwed into a metal sleeve to prevent the wood from becoming stripped. You can purchase extra bolts on the Montessori Services website if any of them get lost. The Slotted Bolt Board costs $42, not including shipping costs.
Graded Bolt Board
The Graded Bolt Board is considered to be the hardest of the three boards to use because of the small bolt sizes. It is a wooden board with 4 metal sleeves for screws to be screwed into. It is slightly smaller than the Slotted Bolt Board. It was designed by a teacher who practices the Montessori Method. It is meant to be used by children 3 years old or older. It is meant to teach children hand-eye coordination. You can purchase extra bolts on the Montessori Services website if any of them get lost. The Graded Bolt Board costs $42.
You can purchase the Graded Bolt Board, Slotted Bolt Board, and Hex Bolt Board as a set on the Montessori Services website if you do not want to purchase them individually. The entire set costs $115. The board set is a great thing to have if you have multiple children who need to learn hand-eye coordination, or if you will be teaching a child for a long time and need your teaching tools to change to use as they improve their hand-eye coordination skills and age.
Birch Geo Board
The Birch Geo Board is more commonly known as a rubber band board. You may remember using them while you were in elementary school. The Birch Geo Board is a square wooden board that has many wooden pegs and comes with about 100 colorful rubber bands. More commonly found and used models have small metal pegs rather than wooden pegs. The Birch Geo Board is meant to allow children to experiment with various geometric shapes and what they look like. It also helps children improve their fine motor skills because of how small the pegs and rubber bands are. It is meant to be used by children 4 years old or older. The Birch Geo Board costs $34, not including shipping costs.
Geo Blocks & Gears
The Geo Blocks and Gears manipulative is a wooden board with three wooden pegs and 12 wooden gears. The wooden gears are movable so children can move, stack, match, and rotate the gears. The wooden gears and blocks have fun geometric shapes and are very colorful, which draws a child’s attention to them. It is meant for children up to 4 years old. The set costs $21, and you, unfortunately, cannot buy any replacement pieces if some of them get lost.
Garden Patch Puzzle
The Garden Patch Puzzle is made out of 16 blocks that are colorfully painted. The blocks come in different shapes and sizes. When all of the blocks are put together correctly, they make a picture of a garden with multiple different animals scattered throughout it. There are two painted sides to the blocks, so they can put together two different puzzles. The blocks are large, which makes it easier for children to hold, and the blocks fit into a wooden board that keeps the pieces together. This puzzle is meant to teach children how to fit different pieces together. The Garden Patch Puzzle is $26 and is meant for children who are at least one year old.
Small Pegs Activity Set
The Small Pegs Activity Set is a set of 4 plastic pegboards, 600 differently-colored pegs, and 15 double-sided laminated cards with various designs. The pegboards are meant to improve a child’s fine motor skills and helps them improve their ability to sort items and identify patterns and symmetry. It is meant for children 3 years old or older and does come with very small pieces, so an adult will need to be watching them while they are using this manipulative. The Small Pegs Activity Set costs $40, not including shipping costs.
The Bolt Block is a large wooden block with 6 holes that fit large wooden screws and bolts. It is meant to teach small children how to screw in items and improve their fine motor skills. The wooden bolts and screws are painted different colors that match to colors painted around different holes on the block. The wooden bolts can be put into any of the 6 holes and can be easily stored.
This manipulative is meant to teach children how to mix and match colors, and the screws and bolts are large enough to be turned by hand. This manipulative is meant for children 2-5 years old. The Bolt Block costs $15.
Opening & Closing Activity
The Opening and Closing Activity is a set of eight containers that provide a variety of different challenges that are meant to improve a child’s fine motor skills and teach them how to open and close containers with different ways to close them. The containers have a hinge, zipper, snap, string, or a different method of closure.
This manipulative is meant to teach children how to problem solve and how to open different containers. You can even put small items into the containers for them to find. However, this may mean that they will get into more items of yours as they learn how to open them, and the activity set does come with small parts inside. This activity is meant for children over 3 years old. The entire activity set costs $30.
Wooden Beads & Laces
The Wooden Beads and Laces manipulative is great for improving a child’s fine motor skills. This set comes with 108 different colored and shaped wooden beads and a long string for them to put the beads onto. It comes in a plastic storage container with a handle, so it is easy to take when you are on the go. This manipulative helps a child learn how to sort items and learn patterns. The beads are slightly small but are meant to be in a child’s hands. It is meant to be used by children 3 years old or older. The Wooden Beads and Laces manipulative costs $25.
The Pop Beads manipulative is comprised of 300 small plastic beads that snap together and apart easily. The beads are different shapes and colors and are meant to teach children how to make designs and patterns. However, the beads are very small and are meant for children 5 years old or older. This is a great manipulative for children who are fascinated by your jewelry or enjoy wearing jewelry of their own because the beads allow them to make and change something that looks like jewelry. The Pop Beads manipulative costs $15.
Twist & Turnables
The Twist and Turnables manipulative is comprised of eight large wooden blocks that can be screwed together. The blocks are painted with different colors and shapes for children to match together. All of the blocks can be screwed into each other, and 4 of the blocks can be screwed in on both sides of the block. This manipulative is meant to teach children how to match different colors and improve their fine motor skills. It can also teach them how to match similar colors. This manipulative is meant for children 2-4 years old. The Twist and Turnables manipulative set costs $15.
Where Can I Buy Montessori Manipulatives?
You can purchase Montessori manipulatives online or in a store. They may be found in toy stores because they look very similar to toys, but many online shops have them available for purchase as well. Many online websites have boxes with multiple Montessori manipulative activities included inside. These boxes typically are labeled with a level of education that is partially determined by the age of the child that will be using it.
If you do not want to purchase Montessori manipulatives, but still want to use them, you can make them on your own. Any activity that encourages a child to sort, organize, recognize a pattern, or improve their fine motor skills can be considered to be a Montessori manipulative.
All of the Montessori manipulative examples listed in this article were found on the Montessori Services website. If you wish to purchase any of the manipulatives listed above or want to see what other options they have available, click here. The website with Montessori manipulatives will have the size and purpose of the manipulative listed with the product description. It will also have the age range that the manipulative is meant for listed.