In a previous post about Kindergruppe Montessori, we highlighted that Montessori education doesn't revolve around standardized toys or specific outcomes, such as getting children to sleep on their own. It's an educational style that, according to its principles, aims to encourage a child's independence, support their personal interests, and promote self-discipline.
Now that we are familiar with these principles, we realize there's a wide range of products to implement them. Not just the original materials Maria Montessori used in her classrooms, as over time, more Montessori-inspired materials like puzzles, cards, and instruments have been introduced. In this philosophy where less is more, how do we decide which material is suitable for a child's age, and how many toys should be available at the same time?
Where Can I Find Montessori Materials?
Throughout the post, we'll be linking some objects we use in our bilingual kindergartens, in case they serve as inspiration. However, there are hundreds more at Montessori Lernwelten. On this page, you can buy your Montessori materials online, click on the banner below.
Click here! ⇓
Without further ado, let's explain how to identify and choose the right material:
Identifying Montessori Materials
Firstly, it's important to reiterate that the role of the pedagogue—or the person accompanying the child—is crucial. The materials themselves won't fully express their virtues. So, we rely on the same criteria that Maria Montessori implemented, meaning the basic characteristics of any Montessori material are:
Isolation of difficulty.
Material and aesthetics.
Invitation to activity.
Isolation of Difficulty
Each material presents a unique challenge with a specific difficulty, addressing a very particular purpose. This allows the child to archive that knowledge and repeat the exercise, isolating the difficulty until they can solve it effortlessly.
For example, with color cards, the difficulty lies solely in distinguishing basic colors, allowing the child to touch and handle the pieces. For the tower, the challenge is to place the pieces in order of size. In both cases, other constants remain the same.
Each Montessori material is self-corrective, enabling the child to work independently without a third party pointing out errors. They proceed with the exercise thoughtfully and critically. A prime example for us is the cylinders of various sizes; the child realizes when they don't fit and works to correct it.
Natural and Aesthetic Materials
Good Montessori material is made from natural materials, typically wood. They are robust, high-quality, attractive, and harmonious. The goal is to invite the child to manipulate them and take responsibility for their care.
Montessori cube towers are a good reference; it's unlikely that a child will break them, and they have a suitable size for hands-on manipulation.
Invitation to Activity
These materials don't have fragile or loose pieces and invite the child to play with them in any posture or situation, always active and appropriate.
Montessori Materials are Sequential
Montessori materials should be offered in order, according to the learning process. Language-related materials are a good example for us because we can't skip ahead: first phonemes and letters before delving into more complex vocabulary. Not only that, but any language progress should be coordinated with other areas, as using tweezers—fine motor skills—helps with pencil grip and consequently the start of writing.wird.
How Many Elements Should You Have?
If we can already identify a Montessori material, we can move on to the next question: how many elements should we have at the same time? There's no exact recommended number, but we can use the example of our kindergarten: having at least one toy from each category is sufficient. They don't even have to be all visible at the same time, as we use cabinets to store some and shelves to leave others accessible. Children practice patience; if another child is playing, they must wait until they finish to engage with it. We don't have repeated toys, and if they don't work, they are removed.
Types of Montessori Material
Nevertheless, the main categories we mentioned would be as follows:
Practical Everyday Materials
Cultural Learning Materials
Practical Montessori Materials
In this group of practical Montessori materials, we include those that focus on self-care, environment care, and movement control. Items with laces to learn to tie shoes or small pitchers for pouring water.
Sensorial Materials for Children
We have emphasized sensory integration on our Instagram account, so we include all materials that help conduct sensory baths, refining the 5 senses. With the right material, a child can learn to differentiate pressure (baric boards, for example), temperature (thermal boards), and recognize objects by touch (stereognostic bag).
If you're interested in sensory integration, you can consider Sensorische Integration Kurz im Wien.
Mathematics with Montessori Materials
Learning to count using beads, sticks, or even tweezers is a way to absorb this complex knowledge in childhood in a sensory way. Materials increase in difficulty, so we can find elements for the school level, even with algebra.
Montessori Materials for Language Development
Here we would include all materials aimed at reading, writing, reading comprehension, and the beginning of syntactic analysis. We especially like wooden letters, with which we can form words in different languages.
Montessori Cultural Learning Materials
These materials teach the child about geography, biology, society... this year we focus on biodiversity, habitats, and the relationships of living beings with their environment and others.
What Do We Use in Our Bilingual Kindergarten?
In our La Rueda groups, we like to rotate the material and not take it all out at once. We opt for objects that help with language acquisition and convey our values, so you will probably recognize some of these:
We hope this has been helpful; feel free to follow our Instagram accounts (@la_rueda_kindergruppe_wien) and Facebook (@la.rueda.wien) to see the children in action, along with activities and topics of multilingual interest. See you soon!