Monday, July 6, 2009

More Montessori questions...

Thanks to everyone that gave me ideas in regards to the Montessori Golden Bead materials :)

If I'm going to have to bite the bullet & order them I am also wondering about the Geometric Solids & the Metal Insets... I did see this set through an Australian company & wondered if I could amend it in place of the real Geometric Solids. Any ideas? Also, has anyone made their own Metal Insets (albeit in card)? I would really love these - and the tray, which looks like a helpful addition - & am thinking that if I bought them I could then make my own Geo cabinet etc. in thick card. But, maybe I could make do with a card set... I'm not sure.

I've decided that I just can't justify either of the Cylinder sets at the moment - but please feel free to argue against that with me! I did speak to a Montessori teacher who thought that at 3 1/2 Lovely may already be past the key age for the Knobbed Cylinders. Again, of course I would love to have them but they're such a big investment.

On a lighter note - the (natural) Pink Tower and Broad Stairs turned out beautifully. I must try & photograph them in the next few days. As beautiful as they both are in the natural wood I am wondering if I need to paint one of them (the Pink Tower being the obvious choice) because when they are being used together the impact of the 2 sets working in tandem may not be so visually clear when they look so similar. Your thoughts?

My other exciting news is that I got this totally cool small unpainted globe when I was thrifting this morning. Perfect to become our Globe of the Continents! I've been looking for a globe to paint for ages & this is a kit actually made so that you can paint it yourself however you want. How brilliant is that?!

My final bit of excitement was getting a Nienhuis catalogue sent out to me to use as an official reference guide. I signed back up to Montessori Makers & they recommend getting one. It's really worthwhile :)

Phew! Must go & drink tea & spend some time with my sweet husband (who I can hear tapping away on his laptop in the other room). We're crazy ;) Good night...

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Comments :


  1. Hi Amber! In no particular order I would say yes to painting the tower pink. We have a natural one at school which we bought because we thought the children would like it because it is different to nursery but they didn't touch it. We ended up getting a pink one and they immediately started to work with it and the natural broad stair. We asked why and they said either they hadn't seen it, or it didn't look different enought to the broad stair so building with them together wasn't so satisfying.

    The geo solids look fine except there is no ovoid which is one of the key shapes that is usually introduced at this age. If you could get one to fit it that would be fine.

    As for the insets - they are expensive and not every child will use them much, but some absolutely love them and work with them on and off for ages. If you can find anything similar I think it would be ok. If you look at the shapes and imagine which letters they are preparing the hand for you may well find other insets that will fill that gap - or I have heard of people printing tham onto thick card and laminating them and they have been fine.

  2. The knobbed cylinders are wonderful, but I think the teacher you spoke to was right about 3.5 being sort of out of the prime age for them. Ours got used most at age 2.
    The metal insets were not a big hit with any of the kids here. They used them a little, but not a lot. Same with geometric solids, which I love, but my kids don't. I do have some ideas on using them as art props, however, so I'm keeping them a bit longer in hopes of getting some value out of them.

    The geometric cabinet is one item that like the golden beads I would not try to make. Plus, it gets TONS of use here with all ages (even my 13yo!). Definitely money well spent there.
    Oh, and patterns for making the metal insets are easily found online.

  3. Can you buy the metal inset individually? I don't know if you are supposed to, but Abby only really uses 1 or 2 of the shapes, the rest sit unused. She does get them out regularly, but just uses the same ones.

  4. And Amber, I am so impressed with the way you are making so much. It must be very satisfying to see the children using materials that you have made yourself! Could you use thin wood instead of cardboard for the metal insets? My only hesitation with cardboard would be the shapes getting damaged with a lot of use (the edges), but I guess it would depend how thick it was. Where do you get the catalogues? I can imagine I would loose hours browsing through one.

  5. Hi Rebecca :)
    I was just about to post you a "Good Morning" in response to your 1st comment when your 2nd one came in!

    Speaking on wooden insets - I did see an 'antique' inset at a school I once visited. It was on display in a cabinet in their front office & it was from outback/rural Australia from about the 1950's & all falling apart but it was a beautiful thing to think of all of the children that must have used it over the years.

    Hmmm... I do know a metal fabricator... I wonder if it's a tricky thing to make?!

    Annicles & Theresa - thanks so much for your ideas. It is tricky isn't it - because it's all about "following the child' & - in advance -it's hard to know exactly *what* will grab them.

    Yes, I appreciate the story about the PT/BS & I think that I will have to paint the pink tower...

    Theresa - can you tell me more about your uses for the Geometric Cabinet? Do you have the Botany one too? You made me realise I don't *yet* know much about the cabinet & their 'true potential' ;)

    Hmmmm... an Ovoid. A spare Ovoid, interesting... actually, maybe (being an egg shape) that's not going to be as hard as it might be.

    Thanks for all the help! Hope there is more to come :)

  6. Amber,

    I have a natural block tower, and always have, and the kids use it all the time. Not having it be pink has been a problem. I briefly thought about painting, but didn't want to have to deal with chipping, etc.

    I got plastic insets through Montessori N' Such. They are used ALL THE TIME.

    Probably right about him being past the knobbed cylinders.

    I had a similar geometric solids set for awhile, and then got a "real" set on a deal a couple years ago. It was going to cost me more to get ellipsoid and ovoid separately than get a whole set on a deal. But I think that this set would work o.k. But my kids do use the "real set than they did this set.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts Andie :)

    This is almost a live feed this morning!

    Do your children use the (natural) Pink Tower with the Broad Stair? ANd if so - is there still a visual difference in the wood? Mine are the same type of wood - possibly even same tree so they look so similar. Beautiful too... so I would be disappointed to paint the PT, but, I can really see the issue here.

    Plastic Insets. I should look at some. I think I was being a little snobby about them though I don't know why?! Just the aesthetic appeal I guess.

    Speaking of which - I was reading something interesting (I should find the article) about Maria perfecting the correct number of items for each material - ie. she found that 10 Metal Insets was perfect & that when she tried either only 5 or adding more to make 15 - the children weren't as drawn to them.

    With that in mind I would only present the correct number of Geo Solids if I I was to buy that larger set.

    Loving this 'conversation'!!

  8. I'm late to the convo, but here are my two cents. First off, my summer project is revamping my language card collection, and I'm feeling slightly overwhelmed. I can't believe what you are doing. I'm super impressed!

    1. I've read that Montessori actually made the metal insets from wood first, like most of the other materials. She found that they got dirty quickly and would even break, thus the use of cold, unwelcoming metal. (It certainly gets a lot warmer in blue and pink!) I find that my metal insets are used over and over again, and I think they are an incredibly important material in developing the wrist strength for writing. If there is any material that does this most, it is the metal insets. I would say they are a good investment, no matter which way you go.

    2. Ditto on the solid cylinders from what everyone else said. Though, they are immensely fun. Whenever older children (grades 3-5) visit my classroom they are the first thing they ask about, besides the bells, of course.

    3. For the geo solids, you could definitely find a substitute ovoid, they're all over craft stores. Only problem might be finding a size that matches. Another option might be making them out of clay (?) The children in my class loved making geometric solid shapes with clay, and I think that with firm enough clay, a steady hand could make pretty accurate proportions. Just a thought... I've never seen it done.

    Good Luck! Can't wait to see how it turns out!

  9. Hi P.S :)

    I was interested to hear about Maria & the wooden insets. I hadn't read that before. I also appreciate your saying that "they're a good investment, no matter which way you go"... I know that Hug loved them when he did his Montessori time & would probably use them as well as Lovely. In the meanwhile we are doing lots of stencil tracing work at the moment which I can only imagine is helpful too - but that combination of the knobs on the insets / the geometrical shapes / and the precision of the Metal Insets is probably hard to match.

    I like your idea about the clay! Now, I don't actually imagine that I could pull it off but... I do have clay in the fridge! I bought 2 packs to make the Land & Water forms. So, maybe I should give it a go! I love these "brainstorming sessions"!

    I re-borrowed Hainstock's Early Childhood Years book today from the out of town library. I have a copy of the Elementary Years one & have had this out before. I haven't had a chance to look at it today (having had the munchkins bouncing around me all day!) but can't wait o look over it tonight because there are probably some great low-cost solutions in there.

    In her Elementary Years book she says that you can make cardboard Golden Bead materials if you need! Love that. I mean - I am hoping to *not* have to do that but in the end I want the PHILOSOPHY & METHOD to be uppermost in my mind. I've loved the stories I've heard about Montessori schools starting in the African desert with sticks & stones. So, I know that if I apply myself I can do a decent job - even if it doesn't look like a traditional Montessori classroom... I can only hope that in spirit that there will be common ground :)

  10. I bought a set of geometric solids like this:

    Then made my own cards to go with them. I like that they are fillable, which expands their use.

  11. I used to have a home based program and I do have the whole set of metal insets and the geometric solids too. They are hardly used. I am thinking of selling them for $50 without the shipping cost. I am in the San Francisco Bay area.

    I have to find out how much it will cost to ship them as they are wooden and heavy. If you are interested I can send you the pictures too so that you can see the condition of them.

    You can leave me a comment in my blogspot at if you are interested.


  12. Amber,

    Yes, my children use the natural block tower with the Broad Stair, but my Broad Stair is stained with dark walnut colored stain, so there is a definite visual difference. I can see how it would be a problem if both were exactly the same color.

    I'm usually a little snobby about my stuff too LOL but surprisingly never was about the plastic insets. I really felt at the time that they were an important thing to buy instead of make, but if I bought metal, I wouldn't be able to afford my other "have to's" at the time.

    I found the same thing when I had that geo solids sets. It became too overwhelming to the children to use all of them. I'm glad that I got the set with the ovoid though, because my kids love that shape! It is their favorite by far!


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