The sensorial Montessori materials are a huge part of what differentiates Montessori activities from those that are more traditional. While many of these materials typically appear in Montessori schools, it’s still entirely possible to create some sensorial activities right at home.
What are Montessori sensorial materials?
The Montessori method was created by Maria Montessori in the late 1800s. Her research, teaching practice and interactions with children led her to discover a few ways in which children thrive and learn best.
She discovered that children were able to best absorb information about their environment through the senses, which led to the creation of what we now call Montessori sensorial materials.
In a Montessori classroom, the sensorial area contains activities that train, develop and sharpen each of the five senses: smell, sight, taste, hearing and touch.
What is the purpose of Sensorial in Montessori?
The senses play a key role in children’s ability to refine and retain the information they take in on a day to day basis. Development of these senses is an important aspect of the Montessori philosophy. Through the use of the senses, children are able to better understand and engage with new experiences.
The five senses include:
- Smell (olfactory)
- Sight (visual)
- Taste (gustation)
- Hearing (auditory)
- Touch (tactile)
Sensorial lessons are commonly given in Montessori schools and homes – both formally and informally. In Montessori sensorial lessons, activities are designed to incorporate one of the five senses. Through these activities, children are able to absorb information in a variety of personal ways.
30+ Montessori Sensorial Materials
These sensorial materials all serve a specific purpose – utilizing one of the five senses. Montessori sensorial lessons are often given using these materials in a classroom setting, but can be given using common materials found around the house as well.
Whether you are hoping to bring Montessori sensorial materials into your home, or are just hoping to find some inspiration or activity ideas, any or all of these materials will help serve your purpose.
Smell – Olfactory Sensory Materials
There are few formal materials when it comes to the olfactory sense. A great deal of activities that involve smelling are found in a child’s daily routine – simply encouraging the child to examine and explore the sense when it arises is often enough.
- Smelling Bottles – small bottles or jars filled with scented cotton balls
- Household Objects – candles, flowers, kitchen ingredients
Sight – Visual Sensory Materials
The visual sense involves the most formal materials, perhaps because it is one of the broadest senses. Montessori sensorial materials for sight can be broken down into three categories: size, color, and form.
In each of these three categories, children will use their visual sense (sight) to discriminate objects based on their size, color or shape.
- Pink Tower – 10 wooden cubes increasing in size
- Brown Stairs (also known as broad stairs) – rectangular prisms increasing in size
- Knobbed Cylinders – cylindrical wooden blocks of varying sizes, in a single case
- Knobless Cylinders – similar to knobbed cylinders, but grasped without a knob on top
- Red Rods – 10 rods increasing in size
- Primary Color Tablets Box – a box of tablets in each of the primary colors
- Secondary Color Wheel – a set of circles designed in varying shades based off the primary colors
- Color Tablets – a box containing tablets in a gradient of each color
- Mixing Black and White – various objects or images that show the contrast between black and white
- Geometric Cabinet – a cabinet with 6 drawers, each containing a knobbed puzzle with different geometric shapes
- Geometric Solids – solid blue figures in varying geometric shapes
- Binomial Cube – a cube containing a three dimensional puzzle of objects that fit together a single way
- Trinomial Cube – a cube that opens with two adjacent sides; it contains wooden blocks that fit together to form the same pattern on each side
- Blue Triangle Box – a box containing blue triangles of different sizes that can be used to create different shapes and forms
- Rectangle Box – a box containing triangles of five different sizes that fit together to make rectangles
- Hexagon Box – a hexagon box containing different shapes that fit together
Taste – Gustatory Sensory Materials
The gustatory sense is another that contains few formal sensorial materials, as many tasting activities are best found in the everyday routine. Gustatory sensory activities can happen within many regular activities such as baking or eating.
- Tasting Bottles – bottles prepared with various different flavors to try inside
- Tasting Flavors – dropping a few drops of various flavors onto spoons; children try to match identical flavors
Hearing – Auditory Sensory Materials
The auditory sense revolves around many different types of musical activities. Most of these Montessori sensorial materials are commonly found in traditional home and classroom settings as well.
- Sound Cylinders – two sets of tubes, marked either red or blue; children shake one tube and find the matching one
- Handbells – a set of bells, each with a different pitch
- Writing Music – musical staff paper for children to freely compose
- Reading Music – various kinds of sheet music written for different instruments
- Listening to Music – a wide variety of genres, themes and volumes
- Musical Instruments – various percussion instruments, stringed instruments and often woodwind or brass instruments for children to explore
Touch – Tactile Sensory Materials
There are a few different formal Montessori sensorial materials geared towards activating the tactile sense. These activities can take place formally in a classroom setting, or be recreated at home with every day objects.
- Fabric Boxes – each contain fabric squares with different textures
- Mystery Bag – a bag containing a random and unique combination of objects for children to explore without seeing them
- Touch Boards – sandpaper of varying degrees of coarseness attached to wooden tiles
- Baric Tablets – a set of tablets varying in weight
- Thermic Bottles – bottles containing tiles of different materials that are used to show different heat conductivity
When not in a formal, classroom setting, these lists can often feel overwhelming. While many classrooms are stocked up on these sensorial Montessori materials, it can be difficult to find and choose which to buy for your home.
Here are a few classic sensorial materials that can be found and purchased through Amazon. If your child is not attending a Montessori school, or you wish to purchase a few different materials than what their classroom offers, here are a few good options.
Sensorial Materials for the Home
Regardless of where these materials can be found, most are useless without the proper activities. And while children thrive on structure, creating sensorial activities is often not as difficult as one might think.
Parents and teachers can choose to focus on a variety of every day tasks to incorporate sensorial activities into their day, or create a structured activity using some of the formal sensorial materials.
Whichever you choose, your child will benefit from the exposure and opportunity to practice refining each of their senses. These 15 sensorial activities are easy to reproduce, whether you’re at home or at school. Your child will love the hands-on experience with each of their senses!
15 Montessori Sensorial Activities
- Baking or cooking
- Mystery bags
- Play dough or kinetic sand
- Rice or bean bin filled with objects
- A nature walk
- Water play in the sink or tub
- Dancing or movement games
- Taste testing a variety of flavors
- Geometric puzzles
- Playing musical instruments
- Hot and cold sensory bottles
- Exploring different fabrics
- Listening to different sounds or music
- Freeze dance
- Wet or dry transferring activities
These Montessori sensorial activities are simple, fun and adaptable for children of all ages. Incorporating sensory activities is often just as simple as noticing points in your day when your kids are already exposed to different sensorial materials, and making the most of them.
Taking the time to incorporate sensorial materials and activities, whether you’re following a Montessori philosophy or not, will greatly benefit your child. Not to mention – they’ll probably love it.