Our senses are the gateway to the brain and intellect.  From an early age, children interact with their environment through their senses.  Starting in infancy, they touch, look, listen, taste, manipulate and smell anything that attracts their attention.  Dr. Montessori said in her book The Discovery of the Child, “The development of the senses actually precedes that of the higher intellectual faculties, and in a child between the ages of 3-6 it constitutes his formative period.”
As the senses develop, each child gradually begins to explore size, weight, temperature, texture, smell and sounds. In a Montessori classroom, at first the child may be asked to organize items that vary in one aspect such as length or height.  Each academic concept is represented in material form, such as the red rods that show length.  Sensorial materials have a built in control of error so that children can check and correct their own work, for example the Pink Tower will topple over if not built in sequence.  Or, a knobbed cylinder will not fit into the proper hole if it is not the correct size. The child can see that the cylinder is too tall or too short or just right.

Sensorial materials in the classroom are:

  • Knobbed and knobless cylinders
  • Pink cubes: 10 pink cubes with graduated dimensions from 1 cm to 10 cm
  • Broad stair: 10 brown rectangular prisms of equal length with graduated dimensions
  • Rough/Smooth boards
  • Fabric box
  • Baric tablets (distinguishing weight), Color and thermic tablets (distinguishing temperature)
  • Red Rods: 10 red rectangular prisms with graduated length from 10 cm to 100 cm
  • Sound cylinders
  • Bells
  • Geometric solids: triangular & rectangular prisms, cube, cylinder, cone, triangular & square pyramids, sphere, ellipsoid and ovoid
  • Geometric cabinet
  • Constructive triangles
  • Binomial cube
  • Trinomial cube (indirect preparation for algebra)
  • Smelling jars
  • Tasting Bottles: salty, sweet, bitter, sour

The materials in the Sensorial Area include lessons in vocabulary; the students learn small, smaller, smallest, etc.  Initially, the colors and variety of the sensorial materials appeal to the children. They soon learn that the materials involve movement, exploration and the joy of discovery.  They continue to be introduced to more challenging work as they gain a heightened awareness and sensitivity to their world through their senses.