Montessori Mondays: Start with the Basics

During one of my Alt for Everyone classes, a group of women in the chat were complaining that they "hate primary color themed toys" and "those boring Montessori black, white and red toys." Well, I hate to break it to you, people, but you've gotta start with the basics. Read on to understand how children's minds are developing impressions of the world, formulating broad, basic categories of classification and beginning to understand the broad, complex world around them.

Simple to Complex

Every time a new concept is presented to the children in a Montessori class, it is approached from simple to complex. We start with the primary colors in a little box. The children match the colors for a while. Another day, they'll learn the names of the colors if they don't know them already. Then sometime later, little games are played finding things around the room that are the same color. This progression takes them from introduction, to naming, to interaction and deep, internal understanding. When approached this way (while it may seem boring to adults) the child is given information in manageable amounts and is able to feel confident moving forward to more colors, gradients of color and noticing color in nature. Instead of a jumble of information flying at them, it's broken down to the basics, ultimately laying a foundation for deeper understanding.

Sets of Classification
Children are really keen to understand what things go together and what things are the same and what things are different. Classification helps with this. Lately, when we are on the tram, Coco, who has finally figured out that J isn't also called 'mommy,' points to every man on the tram and exclaims, "DADDY!" It's a little embarrassing, as you might imagine. Then she moves on to pointing to women and declaring, "MOMMY!" And every child is "COCO!" So, you see, she has developed a system of classification: men are daddies, women are mommies and children are cocos because those are the words that she knows and which are used in her life. She will figure a more sophisticated approach later, of course, but for now that is her level of understanding.

Cards, like the ones above, are a great way to introduce vocabulary sets to a child. I'm not quite sure I would include avocado in the fruit set (although it is technically a fruit) but you get the idea. It's extra fun to play "Bring Me" with cards like these, as in "Bring me the banana" until all the cards have been brought. When they bring the strawberry instead, it's okay. Just call it a strawberry, put it in your pile and ask for the next one. This, of course, is after the names have been learned pretty well.

So you can see how progressing from simple to complex and starting with the basics is the way children naturally learn and what they need in order to go further. That doesn't mean everything needs to be boring, though. Just remember that their minds are at the very beginning of a long process. And for beautiful, colorful toys, I love Haba. ;)

(Photos of Montessori materials via Nienhuis, Classified Cards via Etsy)


  1. Love this :)

    Are you using those fruit cards, or something similar, with Coco already? What age do you think they'd be useful?

    1. I'm planning to find some that I like while we're in the States. I think around 18 months, when comprehension really hits a nice stride, is a good time to do games related to comprehension, like Bring Me. As far as recall and having the child name the object or item, that comes later. :)


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