Maria Montessori believed that nothing comes into the mind except through the senses. During the years between three and six, as children develop their senses, their attention is directed toward the environment. The purpose of the Sensorial activities is to help the child in his efforts to sort out the many varied impressions given by the senses. These materials are specifically designed to help the child develop discrimination, order, and to broaden and refine the senses. These materials also help prepare him to be a logical, aware, and perceptive person.

Visual discrimination of difference in dimension, width, length, and size can be found in materials such as the Pink Tower, Brown Stair, Red Rods, and Knobbed Cylinders. Other activities that enhance visual sense are the Color Tablets, Geometric Cabinet, and the Constructive Triangles.

The Touch-Tablets, and Fabric-Feel isolate the tactile sense, while Sound Cylinders and Bells train the auditory sense. The Mystery Bag helps to develop the stereognostic sense (the tactile-muscular sense).

The Sensorial materials are designed with a built in feed back to control of error to show when mistakes have been made. The child then remains independent of your oversight and develops an inner, personal incentive to practice and improve. After experiencing Sensorial activities, the child's sense perceptions will appear inherently structured and capable of comprehending abstract concepts.

Materials (Montessori Apparatus)


Pink Tower - Ten pink cubes ranging in size from one cubic centimeter to one cubic decimeter, and differing equally in all dimensions by increments of one centimeter. The pink tower helps to develop the child's discrimination of  differences in three dimensions. A child will build the tower from the largest to the smallest.


Pink Tower

Brown Stair - The brown stair helps to develop the child's visual discrimination of differences in two dimensions. It indirectly prepares the child for later work in geometry and for the concept of numbers, in demonstrating the unit difference in height and width between the ten successively thicker prisms. The child will build the brown stair form the thickest to the thinnest.


Brown Stair

Extensions - The pink tower and the brown stair can be worked with together. The children are able to visually experience and explore with various dimensions of the combined materials.


Pink Tower/Brown Stair

Red Rods - These rods are designed to help the child's visual discrimination of difference in one dimension.They help to develop the child's muscular coordination and indirectly prepares them for later work in geometry through the general observation of the geometrically regular differences in the rod's lengths, faces, and total volume

Knobbed Cylinders - This set of four blocks, each with its appropriate series of cylinder insets, help to  develop the child's visual discrimination of size. They form the following graduation of exercises - from easy to difficult: decrease in diameter and height, diameter only, decrease in diameter while increase in height, and decrease in height only.

The knobbed cylinders indirectly prepare the child for writing, through the handling of the cylinders by their knobs, and prepares them for later work in Math, through observation of the regular differences in the cylinders.


Knobbed Cylinders

Extension - Children can work with two, three, or four cylinder blocks at a time.


Knobbed Cylinders

Knobless Cylinders - Four boxes of cylinders, ten in each box: yellow cylinders decrease in height as well as in diameter, red cylinders are equal in height but decrease in diameter, green cylinders decrease in height but increase in diameter, and blue cylinders decrease in height only.

These cylinder boxes help to sharpen a child's visual discrimination of graduations of size in a series. They also help to develop fine muscle coordination and extend concentration through comparisons of series of graded cylinders.


Yellow Cylinder Box


Red Cylinder Box


Green Cylinder Box


Blue Cylinder Box

Extensions - There are many variations that the children can do using the Knobbed Cylinders and the Cylinder Boxes. I like to provide a basket of sample pictures that they can then do themselves. It also gives them ideas to see what other ways they come up with to compare and work with more than one block or box at a time.


Knobless Cylinder Extension Example


Knobless Cylinders



Cylinder Cards


Basket of Pictures - Variations

Color Boxes - These are three boxes of color tablets that the children match progressing towards grading of colors darkest to the lightest. These help children to identify colors and develops visual discrimination.


Color Box One


Color Box Two


Color Box Three

Geometric Cabinet - These trays contain insets of various geometric plane figures. This work helps children to develop visual discrimination in shape, learn the names of the various figures, and prepares them for writing.


Geometric Cabinet

Geometric Cabinet Extension - Provide paper, pencils, glue, and scissors on a tray for children to trace and cut out shapes from the cabinet.





Geometric Solids - A set of nine solid geometrical forms; cube, cylinder, cone, sphere, ovoid, ellipsoid, rectangular prism, triangular prism, and pyramid. Development of muscular-tactile sense, sharpens visual perception of solid figures, and indirectly prepares children for geometry and its language. A blindfold can be worn by achild and another places a solid intheir hands for them to name which one they feel. 


Geometric Solids

Geometric Solid Cards - This card set is an older one I believe from Montessori Services. Children can also match the solid to the cards.


Three Part Matching Cards



Constructive Triangles - Boxes containing various triangles used to form plane figures. These boxes help children to refine the discrimination of geometric form and prepares them for geometry.


Triangle Box


Small Hexagon Box


Small Hexagon Extensions


Rectangle Box


Blue Triangles


Binomial/Trinomial Cubes - Each cube contains cubes and rectangular prisms painted various combinations of red, blue, yellow, and black. These cubes are so designed to develop appreciation for beauty of form in three dimension and indirectly prepares children for the mathematical concepts involved in the binomial and trinomial theorem.


Binomial Cube


Trinomial Cube



Touch Boards


Touch Tablets

Tablets are covered with sandpaper of varying degrees of roughness from coarse to fine. Children match pairs.


Thermic Bottles


Fabric Feel


Thermic Tablets



Sound Cylinders


Bells (Not Nienhuis...but a substitute for now)



Mystery Bag