I recently purchased Miss Oh’s first piece of real and true, official Montessori material – the Pink Tower.
This is one of the very first sensorial material you introduce to little ones. According to the AMI Primary Guide it is for children from three to three and a half years onwards, but I couldn’t resist moving on from Practical Life skills. And like all of these sorts of things, there is variation in opinion over when these activities are suitable for each child with the only premise that seems to unite them being “follow the child”.
You will get more detail if you visit the link to the AMI guide above, or even Google “pink tower”. There are loads of images and different instructions for their use and presentation, and if you are like me and coming from a non-denominational background with regards to methodology you will need to use your best judgement and decide when and how you will choose to introduce these activities* to your child.
The majority of instructions you will find online share more in common than not. But like most philosophies there is certainly a degree of fundamentalism and at the other extreme lip service to be found. I’ve never been fond of fundamentalism in any form, but neither do I like lip service as it takes most of the value away from the original insights.
I’m your classic fence-sitter, middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy type of personality. If good developmental reasons are given for presenting an activity in an extremely** specific way that’s fine and I can accept that, but if no reason is actually given then I tend to do what I think will work best for us. So it is caveat emptor with regards to who you listen to or follow as well as your own world view and personality.
Now that the commentary on the vagaries of instruction are over, here’s the nitty-gritty.
I presented the Pink Tower to Miss Oh on our makeshift rug***, following the main ideas that each block is taken from the tower one at a time, carried with care and placed randomly on the left hand side of the rug.
For those who are already thinking this short intro is anal – the care and one at a time bit is to improve the motor skills (i.e. their co-ordination & control), not to mention that teaching a child to actually care for their toys is a fairly reasonable expectation if your worldview leans that way. The randomness is so that they actually have to look and assess each cube for size. Working from the left hand side seems to be a constant theme throughout presentations of all sorts. For those of us who read left-to-right, this makes perfect sense – teach a child the eye tracking skills (even in such a gross way) for future reading skills. So much for this just being a “learn to stack the cubes” game.
Once I had laid out the cubes I then went ahead and looked at each one, picked the largest and built the tower up. Each time I laid the cube down as gently as I could and in the centre of the one before it. This is the first way a child can see the tower being built. There are others.
So what did Miss Oh make of this?
Well here are the first attempts – taken on my camera phone I’m afraid as Mr Oh had the camera away with him that day.
After this Miss Oh decided that she wasn’t interested in building the tower. Instead she decided that she was more inclined to build a horizontal stair. So she has lain them side by side in almost perfect size order for most of the time she has had access to the tower. For a little while she seemed to have a little bit of difficulty distinguishing between the very two middle cubes (the 6 and 7 cm respectively), but has since overcome this and the stairs are nearly always right on the button.
Then a couple of days ago while playing with her Dad she built the tower vertically and perfectly. I didn’t get photos unfortunately, but maybe next time she does it I will whip out the camera and take a shot for posterity.
And that was our introduction to the Pink Tower. Now to work on some extensions of this material.
* I believe the correct or accepted terminology is “material”.
** Personally I have found the odd piece of instruction to be verging on obsessive compulsive in its nature.
*** Do you have any idea how darned hard it is to find a rug that is flat enough, big enough, flexible enough for a two year old to roll up (and stay that way) and not in some wild Jackson Pollock colour scheme ?!