Wednesday, July 20, 2011

FAQ: Montessori Materials

I've had quite a few people ask me which Montessori materials I think are best and which are not worth the investment. Montessori materials can be pricey even when purchased at a discount supply store and I too asked fellow bloggers the very same question when I first started out in Montessori!

The truth is, I'm hesitant to recommend specific materials for a homeschool because a) each child responds to the materials differently and there's no way to determine if they'll love it or leave it, and b) since the materials are costly I'd feel badly about suggesting something only to have it be one of the things your child doesn't enjoy or get much use out of. Again, there's just no way to determine that in advance. In a regular classroom this would be a non-issue since out of 20 some children surely a handful would like whichever materials were in question.

All that said, I can share with you what materials James has enjoyed. Please know I am in no way responsible for whether or not your child(ren) will feel the same way about them. :)

James' Favorite Montessori Materials:
::The Knobbed and Knobless Cylinders
::The Moveable Alphabet
::The Continent Puzzle
::The Continent Globe
::The Binomal Cube
::The Hundreds Board
::The Sandpaper Numerals and Letters
::Almost all Practical Life work

There are certain materials that I felt were key to providing a Montessori experience for my son and even though James liked them, they didn't/haven't received as much attention as I would have liked. I'm still glad I purchased them and would do so again if I had to. They are:
::The Baric Tablets
::The Spindle Box
::The Number Rods
::The Geometric Solids
::The Pink Tower

I must point out here that I've had other children over to join us for school and they enjoyed many of the above mentioned materials. Every child is different.

And now for the moment of truth - materials I wish I wouldn't have purchased:
::The Dressing Frames
::The Color Tablets
::The Sound Boxes

The above materials are mentioned because I realized after I purchased them that I could have easily make them. Here's a list of some other Montessori-ish materials I've made:
::Dressing Basket, Button Snake, Button Turkey, and Button Tree (alternatives to the Dressing Frames)
::Alphabet Box
::Continent Bags
::Grammar Farm
Practical Life work - I have purchased a few kits and specific supplies from Montessori stores, but the majority of this kind of work (which you can find throughout my blog in my "On Our Shelves" and "Tot School" posts) are my own creations often inspired by other bloggers and my teaching manuals.
::Cards & Counters
::Activity Board (an alternative to the nuts and bolts boards)
::Bean Bags
::Fabric Numbers
::Sound Eggs
::Smelling Bottles
::Art Basket
::Bead Bars (page down to Math section)

As you can see you needn't buy everything, but if you're wondering where you can shop please visit this post to see a list of store options.

~Thank you for your comments!~


Olives and Pickles said...

Thank you Mari-Ann for this post! I totally agree with you, every child is different and they like different things.
I noticed that C doesn't like some activities that James likes and some students I have don't like the same activities.
It's hard to tell.
But thank you anyways for bringing this up.

Līga Krista said...

oh, yes - just to assure those, who asked - my list of my child would look completely different! theoretically there is no way to know it in advance, practically - if there is a way - then only you yourself as a mother can try predicting it, but nobody else!

Waterfront Montessori said...

I totally agree Mari-Ann, the materials are going to depend completely on the child. Just like your list (and child) corroborates, practical life materials are naturally the best for the home.

I think home-school teachers/parents have the incredible advantage of being able to use so much more of the child's life as an instructional experience and are more able to devise lessons from the commonplace.

Tallis Ford said...

I can't quite remember what kind of locale you live in but i happened on to the activity with my boys yesterday and as they were doing it i though "this would totally be a Counting Coconuts activity, if only i started with everything in a tray first!"

We live in the city and in cities trash is a problem. So i gave both boys a pair of metal tongs-- nothing fancy. They combed both sides of our neighborhood street picking up big and little pieces of trash and putting it in the garbage bag while i gardened. They had to look really closely to find some things, and work hard to keep the tongs closed when picking up small items like lollypop sticks. My 4 year old gave it the seal of approval; "mom, let's do this everyday after school!"

Just thought i'd share :)

Andrea said...

Thank you for taking the time to put together such a wonderful and helpful post!

Unknown said...

I too totally agree with you! I like this post because it is very interesting to learn about the different materials that children are attracted to. Also I wish I hadn't purchsed the same materials you mentioned that are easy to make. The children hardly ever used the sound cylinders, but they love the homemade version, I guess it looks more appealing. Thank you for sharing.

Susana of Montessori Candy said...

Thanks for sharing what you've learned Mari-Ann. I've become a lot wiser in my purchases for our home classroom. I've really had to scrutinize all our materials and decide what to keep and what to put out. It certainly is a learning process based on observation most of the time, and I'm still learning.

lilly.put said...

Kids might be different but your list is pretty accurate for us. We have bought similar items. We also love the blue triangles and I would invest in the small moveable alphabet instead of the large one. (I bought the big one to use in my mainstream classroom but I think it is difficult for kids to manage.)

Ann said...

Thank you for your recent post Mari-Ann. I posted your link to my recent post on Sensorial at

It is a wonderful list for children to have Montessori in their home.

Deb Chitwood said...

Thanks for posting this, Mari-Ann! It's always interesting to hear which materials different children respond to best. And it's so true that every child is different.

I totally agree with your choice of materials that can easily be made rather than purchased for home use. I used your photo of the sound boxes to show what they look like and linked to this post to help other homeschoolers decide on their materials. Here's the link to my post:

Jen said...

Super sweet of you to take the time to list all of this... thank you thank you thank you!!


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