Montessori Materials

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When we wrote about Kid-O's Exploring Fractions toy last week, Ohdeedoh reader monika1 pointed out that it's very similar to Montessori materials. This inspired us to dig around the vast (and we do mean vast) universe of Montessori classroom objects. We've rounded up some of our favorite items below the jump.

First, for those unfamiliar with the Montessori learning philosophy, here's a brief description from the Montessori International School:

The Montessori approach offers a broad vision of education as an aid to life... Montessori classrooms provide a prepared environment where children are free to respond to their natural drive to work and learn. The children's inherent love of learning is encouraged by giving them opportunities to engage in spontaneous, meaningful activities under the guidance of a trained adult. Through their work, the children develop concentration, motivation, persistence, and discipline. Within this framework of order, the children progress at their own pace and rhythm, according to their individual capabilities, during the crucial years of development.

Montessori materials for younger children are roughly divided into six subject areas: botany, geography, math, language, practical, and sensorial. Not surprisingly (to ourselves, anyway), we were quite drawn to the sensorial materials. There's something viscerally pleasing about these objects that makes us want to purge all other playthings from our house and rebuild our inventory from scratch, Montessori-style.

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Mystery Box ($39.99)

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Color Tablets ($29.99)

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Color Resemblance Sorting Task ($39.99)

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Sound Boxes ($23.99)

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Smelling Bottles ($24.00)

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Geometric Solids ($59.99)

The cost of Montessori materials used to be prohibitively expensive, but now that they've opened up to the home market, and with discount retailers like Montessori Outlet and Kid Advance on the scene, prices have come down significantly and are now on par with well-made toys.

And like any well-designed, well-imagined object, Montessori materials have a shelf life way beyond the school years. As adults, we can imagine exploring some of these items long after our kids are past preschool age.