Materials (Montessori)

From Montepedia
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In the context of a Montessori environment, "Materials" refer to the hands-on learning instruments specifically designed to foster a child's developmental progress at each stage of their education. These materials are not merely tools but an integral aspect of the Montessori pedagogy that encourages sensory engagement, self-correction, and independent discovery.

Montessori Quotes:

  • "The hand is the instrument of intelligence. The child needs to manipulate objects and to gain experience by touching and handling."[1]
  • “Nothing goes into the mind that does not first go through the hands.”[2]

Research and Critiques:


  • Focused Learning: Montessori materials teach one skill at a time, allowing children to thoroughly master specific learning outcomes through consistent practice.[3]
  • Sensory Engagement: Many of these materials are designed to engage multiple senses, providing a more holistic learning experience.[4]
  • Self-Correction: Materials are crafted in such a way that students can identify and correct their mistakes independently, fostering self-reliance and confidence.[5]


  • Cost and Maintenance: High-quality Montessori materials can be expensive to purchase and require regular maintenance to ensure they remain effective teaching tools.
  • May Not Cater to All Learning Styles: While hands-on learning benefits many children, some might benefit from alternative or supplemental teaching methods.
  • Time-Intensive Training: Educators require specific training to effectively use and present these materials to students.

Comparison to Other Methods:

  • Traditional Education System: In many conventional classrooms, learning is more abstract and reliant on textbooks, with fewer hands-on materials designed for experiential learning.
  • Reggio Emilia Approach: Both Montessori and Reggio emphasize the importance of hands-on materials. However, in Reggio, materials (often referred to as "languages") are more open-ended and less structured than in Montessori.[6]
  • Waldorf Education: Waldorf schools utilize a variety of hands-on materials and emphasize art and creativity. The materials in Waldorf might be less academically focused than Montessori, aiming more for artistic and imaginative development.[7]

Example Materials in the Montessori Environment

Montessori education focuses on a child's natural desire to learn and utilizes hands-on, real-life materials to teach complex concepts. Here are a few examples illustrating this:

Increasing Complexity in Learning: Montessori materials progress with a child's development. For instance, map-related activities start with distinguishing land and water and evolve into identifying continents, countries, and eventually, constructing maps from memory.

  • Math Materials: Tools like the bead chain and arithmetic boards make abstract concepts, like the base-ten system or arithmetic operations, tangible and understandable.
    • Numbers and Counters: By physically pairing numbers with objects, children internalize the concept that numbers represent quantities.
    • Constructive Triangles: These sets emphasize the concept that all plane figures can be formed using triangles, enhancing spatial reasoning.
  • Language Materials: Beginning with dexterity-building tools and progressing through sandpaper letters to the movable alphabet, Montessori classrooms emphasize holistic language acquisition.
    • Sandpaper Letters: These are tactile tools that help children associate letters with their respective sounds. The texture allows children to trace each letter and thus embed its shape and sound in memory.
    • The Moveable Alphabet: This tool fosters word formation and recognition, serving as a bridge between comprehension and eventual reading and writing.
  • Sensorial Materials: Activities like the Pink Tower or puzzle maps refine sensory perception, allowing children to categorize and verbalize their experiences.
    • Parts of the World Puzzle: A hands-on introduction to geography, this puzzle allows children to grasp the relative positions and names of continents, oceans, and more.
  • Practical Life Materials:
    • Mirror Polishing: A practical life skill, polishing helps refine a child's motor skills while teaching them how to maintain their environment.

The Importance of Real Materials in Montessori

  • Montessori environments prioritize real, tangible materials over simulations. The emphasis on real materials stems from several philosophical and practical reasons:
  • Attachment to Reality: Real materials provide children with genuine experiences, promoting a genuine understanding of the world.
  • Natural Consequences: In a Montessori setting, if a child breaks a glass object, it can't be used again. This instills responsibility and an understanding of consequences.
  • Development of Practical Skills: Activities involving real objects, such as dishwashing, enable children to acquire genuine life skills that will benefit them as they grow.
  • Stimulating Imagination: Dr. Montessori believed that a strong foundation in reality enhances a child's capacity for imagination. Real-world knowledge provides a rich base from which imaginative play can grow.
  • Preparation for Real-world Challenges: Exposing children to real tools and materials prepares them to face real-world challenges with competence and confidence.


The Montessori method, founded on principles of self-directed learning, real-world experiences, and holistic development, continues to influence education worldwide. Emphasizing real materials and tools in both classroom and home environments ensures that children develop a solid foundation of practical skills and a genuine understanding of the world, preparing them for future challenges. Reading materials like Tim Seldin’s "How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way" can offer further insights into this enriching educational approach.

Glossary of Montessori Terms

The Glossary of Montessori Terms is a collection of specific terms and vocabulary that are related to the Montessori method of education, primarily focusing on the theory and practice for children aged 3 to 6. The jargon used by Montessori educators offers a unique insight into child development as discussed by Maria Montessori. The 'Montepedia Glossary of Montessori Terms' originated from a glossary that was compiled by the late Annette Haines from the Montessori Training Centre of St. Louis, at the request of Molly O'Shaughnessy from the Montessori Centre of Minnesota. The reason behind the creation of this glossary was to supplement O'Shaughnessy's lecture at the Joint Annual Refresher Course that took place in Tampa, Florida, in February 2001.[8] The glossary has since been expanded and updated with additional 'Montessori Terms'.

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  1. Montessori, M. (1967). The absorbent mind. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  2. Montessori, M. (1967). The absorbent mind. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  3. Montessori, M. (1967). The absorbent mind. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  4. Lillard, A. S. (2017). Montessori: The science behind the genius. Oxford University Press.
  5. Montessori, M. (1988). The Montessori method. Transaction publishers.
  6. Edwards, C., Gandini, L., & Forman, G. (Eds.). (2011). The hundred languages of children: The Reggio Emilia experience in transformation. ABC-CLIO.
  7. Petrash, J. (2002). Understanding Waldorf education: Teaching from the inside out. Gryphon House, Inc..
  8. Haines, A. (2001). Glossary of Montessori Terms. Montessori Training Centre of St. Louis.