LIVABLE LEARNING - Preparing the Home and the Heart
Sensorial Materials Overview - MONTESSORI MADE EASY

"The senses are gateways to the intelligence. There is nothing in the intelligence which did not first pass through the senses."  ~  ARISTOTLE

Purpose of the SENSORIAL Works

The Sensorial exercises help the child - through repetition - to discern differences and similarities. Emphasizing one sense at a time, qualities of the materials are simplified and isolated to allow ease in contrasting differences, comparing for similarities or grading sets of a series into a proper order. It begins with a hands on approach for the 3-6 year old child and lays a solid foundation for the mathematical mind, which will progress more effectively if concrete impressions are made before the abstract concepts are introduced.

The sensorial exercises begin with only a few materials representing the extremes of contrasting items, for example - the faintest and loudest sound boxes; the roughest and the smoothest tactile boards; the heaviest and the lightest baric tablets; the contrasting colors of red and yellow; the contrasting shapes of circle and square. More items are introduced as more are recognized.

Next by matching identical pairs of objects, the differences are made more clear as similarities are found among the contrasts. The matching pairs are mixed up and the similar items are brought together one at a time. For example: a red sound box is chosen, then the blue boxes are shaken one at a time until the matching sound is found.

A series of items is ordered according to gradual changes in dimension, color, or sensation. The objects are mixed up and then arranged side by side according to the system of gradations. For example:  the color tablets are arranged by individual color from lightest to darkest; the sound boxes are arranged from softest to loudest, the sensorial blocks are arranged according to dimensions that systematically decrease or increase by specifically ordered increments as small as one centimeter.

The Sensorial exercises lay the foundation for Geometry, the mathematical study of form and shape.


The SIX Montessori Senses

size, color
     * Block Sets
     * Cylinder Sets
     * Color Tablets

texture (tactile)
temperature (thermic)
weight (baric)
     * Tactile Fabrics
     * Tactile Boards
     * Tactile Tablets
     * Thermic Bottles
     * Thermic Tablets
     * Baric Bottles
     * Baric Tablets

     * Smelling Bottles

     * Tasting Bottles

AUDITORY - sound
     * Sound Boxes
     * Montessori Bells

STEREOGNOSTIC - touch with movement
     * Mystery Bags
     * Practical Life Sorting Trays

The works of Montessori add to the traditional five senses a sixth sense called stereognostic. The word "stereognostic" comes from two Greek words: stereos for "solid" and gnosis for "knowledge" and it is the ability to recognize objects by the combined sense of touch and movement. The stereognostic sensorial Montessori exercises are first done with eyes open, but after practice shapes are recognized and sorted with eyes closed. The stereognostic sense gives the child "solid knowledge" to perceive and understand the size, form, shape, and nature of a solid object. Margaret Humphrey of Montessori World has an excellent online video lesson called Stereognostic Sense where she demonstrates stereognostic Sensorial-Practical Life tray set ups with sorting exercises. The DVDs are also an excellent resource for Montessori Sensorial Demonstrations.

Unless you have a skilled woodworker in the family, the sensorial block and cylinder materials are just a few of the items I recommend buying from a commercial Montessori company. It is vital that the measurements be accurate and that the wood weight be correct. Alisons Montessori is an excellent resource for affordable Montessori wooden materials for the sensorial works.


The Rods  (aka Red Rods)
The Prisms  (aka the Brown Stair)
The Cubes  (aka the Pink Tower)




The Red Rods are a set of ten wooden rods of equal thickness but varying lengths from 10cm to 1 meter.

Red Rod Measurements:  2.5x2.5x10cm, 2.5x2.5x20cm, 2.5x2.5x30cm, 2.5x2.5x40cm, 2.5x2.5x50cm, 2.5x2.5x60cm, 2.5x2.5x70cm, 2.5x2.5x80cm, 2.5x2.5x90cm, 2.5x2.5x100cm.


The Brown Stair
is a set of ten wooden prisms all the same length of 20cm but graduated thicknesses with width and heighth from 1x1x20cm to 10x10x20cm.

Brown Stair Measurements:  1x1x20cm, 2x2x20cm, 3x3x20cm, 4x4x20cm, 5x5x20cm, 6x6x20cm, 7x7x20cm, 8x8x20cm, 9x9x20cm, 10x10x20cm.


The Pink Tower
 is a set of ten wooden cubes measured precisely in increasing increments of 1 square centimeter with the smallest cube being 1x1x1cm and the largest 10x10x10. This sensorial work which for 3-6 year olds seems to be simply a block puzzle is translated later into the mathematical concept of the cubes of numbers from 13 to 103. The Pink Tower also lays the foundation for the hierarchical decimal system of units, tens, thousands, etc.

.....I did not understand that a square number actually made a square or that a cubed number actually made a cube until I was in my 30's and researching Montessori materials! .....The wonder of it all  :)

Pink Tower Measurements:  1x1x1cm, 2x2x2cm, 3x3x3cm, 4x4x4cm, 5x5x5cm, 6x6x6cm, 7x7x7cm, 8x8x8cm, 9x9x9cm, 10x10x10cm.


The Knobbed Cylinders 
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The Knobbless Cylinders add content here







I do believe there is inherent value in using quality materials especially for the purpose the Sensorial works, however if you want just a surface experience you can make your block materials out of cardboard or empty milk cartons but you should fill the homemade rods, prisms and cubes with rice or sand so they have weight - but take care to pack the filling material tightly so there is no baric sensation of the weight inside shifting or no auditory sensation of the materials inside the blocks making sounds. For the cylinder block materials you can try to devise them with cut dowels for cylinders and screw eyes for knobs and styrofoam for the cylinder blocks but use something to add weight to the bottom of the styrofoam base. As in all materials making do whatever you can to maintain the integrity of the material's original intent.

The RED RODS express differences in one dimenison - only in length. When arranged they are set vertically to resemble organ pipes with the shortest rod on the left and the longest on the right. The rods sensorially represent the linear counting units of numbers 1-10.

Vocabulary used with the Red Rods:  short, shorter, shortest / long, longer, longest.

The BROWN STAIR PRISMS show differences in two dimensions - width and height while the length remains constant. When they are arranged they resemble a staircase with the narrowest in the front and the widest at the back. The Brown Stair Prisms sensorially represent the squared numbers 12, 22, 32, 52, 52, 62, 72, 82, 92. 102. If you view the end faces of the prisms you will see the squares of the numbers in the height and width changes.

Vocabulary used with the Brown Stair Prisms:  narrow, narrower, narrowest / wide, wider, widest.

The PINK TOWER CUBES illustrate differences in three dimensions, that of width, height and length. When arranged with the largest cube on the bottom and the smallest on the top they resemble a tower. The Pink Tower Cubes sensorially represent the cubes of numbers from 1 to 10, in other words:  13, 23, 33, 43, 53, 63, 73, 83, 93, 103.

Vocabulary used with the Pink Tower Cubes:  small, smaller, smallest / large, larger, largest.

NOTE:  Recognizing differences in 3 dimensions (3-D) give the child a sense of volume; differences in 2 dimensions (2-D) give the sense of area; differences in 1 dimension give the basis for counting and length.

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