A Guide to Montessori Sensorial Materials

This page offers information about some of the sensorial materials used in the Montessori classroom and the activities in which your child will be involved. Young children classify the input to their senses from the world around them every minute of the day. The Montessori Sensorial Materials help them to gain a deeper understanding of these impressions. By manipulating the materials, a child gains a deeper insight into the nature of the lesson. Be sure to click on the topic buttons below to see samples of the learning materials. Maria Montessori calls these materials “Materialized Abstractions.”

The Montessori Sensorial Materials

“There is nothing in the intellect which was not first in some way in the senses” -Aristotle

Young children classify the impressions they get of the world around them every minute of the day. The Montessori sensorial materials help them to gain a deeper understanding of these impressions. An abstract idea that appears in the human brain appears only in direct physical contact with materials. By touching the material, it gets settled in the “muscle mind”, giving the child the possibilities of a deeper understanding of it. Maria Montessori calls these materials “Materialized Abstractions”.

The Pink Tower: A Lesson in Dimensions 

Montessori sensorial pink tower

Ten pink wooden cubes which range from a large cube (1 cubic decimeter) to a very small cube (1 cubic centimeter) make up the pink tower.  Children learn to see and feel the concept of decreasing size in three dimensions.  Often a child will experiment with alternate ways to assemble this work.

The Brown Stair and the Red Rods: Exploring Size and Dimension

Similar in concept to the pink tower, the brown stair and the red rods demonstrate more sophisticated concepts of size and dimension.

The Brown Stairs

The Brown or Broad Stairs are ten wooden prisms increasing in square cross-section by one centimeter.

The Red Rods

The Red Rods (which vary in length from 10 cm to 1 meter) require the child to align one end of each rod to see how each rod increases in size. Here the child begins to see the concept of unit measurement as each rod increases by the length of the smallest rod.

The Knobbed and Knobless Cylinders: A Study in Differentiation

The Knobbed Cylinders

A familiar sight in any Montessori early childhood classroom is the knobbed cylinders.  There are four different sets of knobbed cylinders, each varying in dimensional characteristics.  The child learns to discern between subtle variations in width, breadth, depth and height by removing the cylinders and replacing them in the proper slots. This activity provides a clear example of the concept of control of error.  If the child places any cylinder in the wrong slot, it will be impossible to complete the task without correcting his mistake.  The knobs require small muscle coordination similar to the skill of holding a pencil.

The Knobless Cylinders

A familiar sight in any Montessori early childhood classroom is the Like the knobbed cylinders, the knobless cylinders  challenge the child to differentiate objects of increasing dimension.  Four sets of knobless cylinders provide the child with different dimensions to evaluate.  These cylinders are more challenging and abstract than the knobbed cylinders.  The control of error is reduced since the child does not have individual slots to insert each cylinder.  He must determine the correct pattern solely through comparison.

The Color Tablets: Introducing Colors and Shades

Introduces color and refines the chromatic sense. This work begins with simple matching to the grading of shades dark to light in nine different color.

Montessori sensorial Materials For Sense of Touch

Rough and Smooth boards and gradation tablets of sandpaper prepare the child’s sense of touch. The fabric box is a wooden box containing matching swatches of a selection of different fabrics. Experimentations with these fabric samples stimulate the child’s interest in texture in the environment, particularly of different fabrics.

The Baric Tablets

A box with 3 sets of wooden tablets made from different types of timber which vary in terms of weight. This stimulates the child’s interest and awareness in weight difference.

The Thermic Tablets (Temperature)

A wooden box containing two tablets each made of felt, wood, steel and slate. This activity enables the child to become aware of the differences in the tactile temperature of materials with different thermal conductivity in our environment.

Montessori sensorial Materials For Sound

The Sound Cylinders

Building auditory skills is an integral part of the Montessori curriculum.  The sound cylinders come in two sets of six hollow cylinders that are color coded blue and red.  The child chooses a blue cylinder and tries to match the sound it makes with one of the red cylinders.  The materials inside the cylinders are chosen to make louder or softer noises when shaken.  By using the sound cylinders, children learn to distinguish subtle changes in volume.

The Bells

The Montessori Bells material consists of 2 sets; a control set and a working set. There are a total of 26 bells; 13 bells in each set for matching tones. The purpose of this material is to help children develop auditory discrimination, which is the ability to recognize the differences in sounds.
This is an important sense to refine, as it plays a role in literacy. When a child can discriminate between sounds, they have better speech perception, which means they can better detect the differences in phonetic sounds.

The Binomial & Trinomial Cubes

Exploration and visual discrimination of color and form as well as indirect preparation for algebra takes place with these exercises. Although children are not yet ready to learn algebraic equations, they can see through this set of three-dimensional blocks what happens when this equation is solved.  Although this activity is much more abstract and complex than some of the earlier activities, it too has a color-coded control of error to allow the child to correct her own mistakes in assembling the cube.

Binomial Cubes

Binomial cube is contained in a wooden box with 8 wooden cubes and prisms painted red, blue and black. The binomial cube introduces in a simple geometric set of blocks, the algebraic equation (a+b) squared. Click on the picture for details.

Trinomial cubes

Trinomial cube is contained in a wooden box with 27 cubes and prisms painted red, blue, yellow and black.  The algebraic equation (a+b+c) squared. Click on the picture for details.

Other Sensorial Materials

The Geometric Cabinet

The beginning of the introduction of geometry is a wooden cabinet containing 6 trays of 4 to 6 different geometrical knobbed insets & 3 sets of Geometric cards. Introduces the child to regular, flat, geometric shapes. It also develops an awareness of shapes in the environment as well as learning the vocabulary of different shapes.

Constructive Triangles

This material gives the child a practical experience with plane geometry and is a preparation for future work in math.


In wrapping up, montessori sensorial materials bring to life a unique approach in education, giving kids the chance to experience and explore their world in profound ways. These hands-on lessons and materials help children connect their sensory experiences to understanding the world around them, opening doors to a richer learning experience.

Every item, from the Pink Tower to the Geometric Cabinet, helps children grasp big concepts in a simple and tactile way. It’s like a playground of learning, where touch, sight, and sound are the main players.

But the montessori sensorial materials go beyond just being educational tools. They are bridges that connect ideas and reality, allowing learning to become more engaging and rewarding. Watching a child deep in sensorial exploration is like seeing the magic of Montessori come alive.

This approach emphasizes the belief that children can understand their world through their senses. It respects their abilities, encourages their curiosity, and supports them in directing their own learning journey.

To sum it up, montessori sensorial materials light up the path to learning by connecting children's senses to the ideas they are learning about. It's about creating a space where children can explore freely, helping them build strong foundations for lifelong learning. It's not just teaching—it's a journey of discovery through the world of senses. By embracing this approach, we're supporting our children's curiosity, helping them grow, and sparking a love of learning that will last a lifetime.