Ever wonder how Montessori differs from traditional education? Maria Montessori held the view that education should prepare children for all aspects of life. She believed that each child is unique and must be free to learn at his or her own pace. To support her theory further, Dr. Montessori designed several materials and techniques that are an integral part of the Montessori prepared environment. Each set of materials focuses on concepts that complement the curriculum.
Visit the prepared classrooms of Montessori Kids Universe Spring Cypress and you will see sets of materials beautifully arranged on low shelves. Maria Montessori emphasized giving children “freedom within limits.” The materials are easily accessible and children are free to choose them according to their interests. Once the students are finished with their material, they are encouraged to put everything back on shelves before moving on to the next activity.
The greatest advantage of Montessori materials is that they are self-correcting, meaning that students will notice their errors and don’t need adult supervision to rectify their mistakes. This improves their problem-solving skills and makes them more confident and content with their accomplishments.
Parents who are new to Montessori often find it hard to understand the importance of these materials. To help you out, here is a list of some of the most popular Montessori materials and how they are used in the prepared environment.
1. Moveable Alphabet
Montessori doesn’t teach the alphabet in the traditional way. Instead of A, B, C, the children are taught the phonetic sounds of these letters. Once they are familiar with the sounds, they are transitioned to the moveable alphabet that allows them to recognize the letters they are used to hearing. The main purpose of the moveable alphabet is not to teach children how to read, but to prepare them for writing.
2. The Golden Beads
The Golden Bead material is included in the mathematical curriculum and introduces the children to the decimal system. Initially, children use the golden beads as an introduction to counting. As the child progresses, the same set of material allows them to perform sums of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
3. The Pink Tower
The Pink Tower may look like an ordinary set of blocks to any person who is not familiar with the Montessori curriculum. However, it is one of the most recognized Montessori materials and teaches children a variety of skills including coordination and dimension. Most importantly, the tower is self-correcting since the child is immediately able to grasp his or her mistakes when the tower is completely built.
4. Brown stairs
Similar to the Pink Tower, the Brown Stairs is another sensorial material that teaches children the different dimensions. As the name suggests, the children use the blocks to build “stairs” starting from the broadest to the narrowest. This allows them to further enhance their understanding of sizes and shape.
5. The world map
The World Map puzzle instills geography knowledge and skills. The cutouts teach children the names of seven continents as well as the names of their countries, capital cities, and demographic location on the globe.
6. The Checkerboard
An advanced mathematic material, the Checkerboard helps children learn multiplication. The checkerboard material contains colorful beads and a large painted board. However, unlike the traditional methods that force children to memorize the multiplications table, the Checkerboard teaches abstract mathematical skills that allow them to calculate large numbers without counting.
7. Practical Life Materials
Montessori emphasizes practical life skills that help children in their daily routine and make them more independent and resilient in the future. Whether it’s the basics such as sweeping or dusting, or the more advanced spooning, pouring, and buttoning, each item is child-sized and allows children to work independently. Children are also assigned duties during the school hours such as cleaning the shelves, watering the plants, and feeding the class pet. This makes them more responsible and instills them with a sense of pride in their contribution.
Montessori materials, while seemingly simple, can be used in a complex manner and through every stage of a preschooler’s development. More importantly, the materials develop a love of learning, advanced critical thinking skills, and the ability to problem-solve, even at this young age.