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Pink Tower Power


There are few materials more synonymous with a Montessori education than the Pink Tower.  This iconic stack of wooden blocks comes from an area called Sensorial, which is unique to the first plane of development (ages 6 and under).  Traditional Montessori materials can be shrouded in mystery for those new to Montessori.  Why would people pay so much for a simple stack of wooden blocks?  Isn't this the same as the cardboard stacker from Target?

The Montessori Method was approached from the perspective of a doctor and scientist.  It was developed via research and an astute attention to detail.  It's no wonder that the materials hold an impressive level of nuance.  What may appear on the surface as a fancy toy is actually a learning manipulative that has been refined over decades.

While the sensorial area holds a number of cleverly crafted pieces, I am going to focus specifically on the Pink Tower.  I will use that example as a way to describe the various aspects that make Montessori Materials far more than a pile of wood.  However, all sensorial materials possess these qualities.

Serves a Specific Purpose
Each Montessori material has a key concept that it demonstrates to the child.  The Pink Tower focuses on a child's ability to discern size visually.

Isolation of Difficulty
Since a young child may not understand what to focus on, all other distracting features of the Pink Tower have been removed.  The only discernible difference from one cube to the next is the size.  Each piece is uniform in shape and color.

Control of Error
Montessori sensorial materials are meant to be self-correcting.  This means that there is a specific mechanism that allows the child to see if the work was completed.  In the case of the Pink Tower, the child can see that the tower has been stacked correctly.  They can also use the smallest cube of the Pink Tower to measure the difference between each block.  If the difference is equal to the smallest cube, it is stacked correctly.

Secondary Qualities
While there is one specific goal with each material, there are typically a number of secondary goals as well.  The wood construction of the Pink Tower allows a child to make a correlation between size and weight.  Manipulating the various cubes also develops motor control.

Internalizing Key Concepts
The Pink Tower has exactly ten blocks by design. This was intentional and is intended to give the child an unconscious awareness of the decimal system or base ten.

The sensorial materials are also used to enhance language. During work with the Pink Tower, a child will be exposed to terms such as larger than, smaller than, small, smaller, and smallest. This gives the child a chance to not only experience through the senses but name the experience as well.

Extends Into Other Materials
Most of the sensorial materials are made with an exceptional level of precision.  This is partly done so that all the materials work together in harmony.  The Pink Tower and Brown Stair are identical in two dimensions and can be combined for extensions.  The Pink Tower also lines up with the Decanomial Square which shows the mathematical relationship of the cubes.  This demonstrates multiplication in a profound way.  While a young child may not understand all the particulars, the visual image will be there to call upon as the child's work progresses.

Since this material is so incredible, it sounds like I should go buy one right now, right?


While the materials are fantastic, it's critical that you take a few steps first before unboxing the Pink Tower and setting it in front of your child.

1 - Understand the Core Principles
Materials do not make something Montessori.  You can have the materials and miss all the important qualities of Montessori - just as you can have none of the materials and still live the Montessori lifestyle to the fullest.  The materials were never intended to be a stand-alone product.  They were designed to build on top of the core principles of the Montessori Method.  Focus on understanding and implementing those principles first if you wish to see materials well-received and utilized properly.

2 - Know How to Present Each Material
Materials are presented in a very specific way.  Without the proper presentation, the purpose of the material will be lost.  It will become an expensive toy that quickly gathers dust, leaving you to feel as though you made a poor investment.  I'm a firm believer in the concept that you aren't ready to purchase any material that you can give a basic presentation on.  Essentially, if you can't describe what it's for and how it's used, don't buy it.

But don't worry.  It isn't rocket science!  Maria Montessori herself often chose young women with no background in education to train and attend to her schools.  You don't need to be a doctor, scientist, or trained educator.  All you need is a willingness to learn and an investment of time.  If you want to learn more about the specifics of sensorial materials, I can't recommend this free video series enough.

3 - Don't Overextend Yourself
Montessori should be approached joyfully.  Don't put pressure on yourself to figure it all out in a day or set up a large environment quickly.  I always advocate spending your time and money wisely and with intention.  It's a journey, so set a pace that gives you slow and steady progress.  I understand the urge to dive in head first but not only can a fast pace burn you out, it will be challenging for your child to adapt to.  They need time to adjust as well.  And don't forget to include everyone in your home, such as your spouse, especially as budget considerations come into play.

The bottom line is that time and patience are your friends on the Montessori journey.  The materials are brilliant and can open up a world of possibilities to explore.  At the same time, if they are not built upon a solid Montessori foundation, they will miss your expectations.  There's no way around it.  You can't spend your way to a solid Montessori experience.  However, if you're willing to invest the time to expand your understanding, both you and your child will benefit tremendously.  

I hope this piques your interest on the profound world of detail that each material holds.  I encourage you to dive in and learn more.  You can also see my previous article on Five Fun Facts about Sensorial.

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This post is part of the 12 Months of Montessori series.  I am honored to take part in it.  Please visit the links below.  There are fantastic posts on Montessori Sensorial topics.

Pink Tower Power | Grace and Green Pastures
DIY Texture Pattern Sticks | Christian Montessori Network DIY Montessori Smelling Bottles and Free Printable | Mama’s Happy Hive

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