A young child meets the world around him through the constant use of all his senses. To examine a new object, a baby will look at it, hold it in his hands to feel the texture and weight, shake it, lick it, or even try to bite it. Dr. Montessori felt that this was the ideal time to give children equipment which would sharpen their senses and enable them to understand the many impressions they receive through them.
Each of the Sensorial Materials isolates one defining quality such as color, weight, shape, texture, size, sound, smell, etc. The equipment emphasizes one specific quality by eliminating or minimizing other differences. Thus, the sound boxes are all the same size, same shape, same color, and same texture; they differ only in the sounds which are made when the child shakes them.
These early sensorial materials help a child distinguish among shapes of varying size (length, width, breadth, and volume). In addition to ranking these materials sequentially, students may also combine different materials to create complex patterns. There are several more materials in the classroom which allow students to sort items by circumference and depth, again, with varying levels of difficulty available to the child.
Color Tablets (Grading Exercise)
The Sensorial materials in the Montessori classroom help the child to become increasingly aware of details by offering him, at first, strongly contrasted sensations, such as red and blue, and then variously graded sensations, such as many different shades of blue. The Color Grading exercise begins with one or two strongly distinguished colors, then slowly adds gradations. An extension of this work is to add several more colors and gradations.
While most educational systems leave the subject of geometry until middle school or high school, the Montessori system introduces this area to much younger children. TheGeometric Solids are a set of bright blue geometric objects, prominently displayed in the Montessori classroom. Students learn the words for these shapes: sphere, ovoid, ellipsoid, cylinder, cone, rectangular prism, cube, triangular prism, etc. Follow-up lessons allow them to explore things in their daily lives which also have those shapes.
This series of exercises presents the child with three to five pairs of sounds. Initially, the child’s task is to distinguish between the sounds and determine which ones are paired. A later extension of this work is to grade the paired cylinders from loudest to softest or vice versa.
With thanks to Montessori School of Syracuse, NY.