This post is one in a series reviewing our current Montessori materials and I will update as we purchase more. The complete list of my Montessori Materials Reviews can be found here.
With this Montessori Sensorial Materials review, I have attempted to touch on and assess the value and quality of the Montessori Sensorial materials that I have personally purchased. I will not go into use, presentation, or extensions — those can be found on my Montessori Sensorial Curriculum page. You can also download my Sequence of Montessori Materials here.
I have compared the cost of the discount products that I have purchased to Nienhuis because they have been largely considered the standard in quality Montessori materials, although I have never purchased from them. I firmly believe that being on a budget should not have to mean accepting poor quality materials and I hope that these honest reviews help you in getting the most out of your budget.
We have now owned and used these materials for over a year and I have updated this post if materials have had issues with time and wear.
Toddler Cylinder Blocks
Purchased from Montessori Equipment, $22 (not available from Nienhuis)
Originally, I didn’t think that I would/could invest in the full size set of Cylinder blocks so this seemed like a great option. Since I own the full size set now, I obviously wish I hadn’t purchased the smaller set as it is redundant. However, for a family who could absolutely not purchase the full set (along with the knobless cylinders) I think these are a good value at the current price and they are definitely good quality; they still expose children to strategic and mathematical concepts and they are an attractive material.
However, children do “master” this set quickly, so you won’t get the same usage out of them and you have less possibilities for extensions than with the bigger set as they aren’t compatible with the Knobless cylinders.
Purchased from Adena, $102.10 for all four (compare to $319.60 at Nienhuis)
The cylinder blocks are the best purchase that I made from Adena.
The cylinders are solid and the weight corresponds to the mathematical concepts that the material is trying to teach. One of the cylinders is now permanently stuck in it’s hole as the cylinder was too big. It’s frustrating for the kids, and even after having removed it by hammering it via one of the bottom holes, it has become wedged in again.
I do like that the cylinder blocks can be used with our Knobless cylinders from Montessori Equipment.
These are an expensive material, one that I hope I recover some of the cost from through reselling eventually; I would only purchase this if able to also buy the Knobless cylinders, as the concepts are only taken halfway by either material. (And if only able to purchase one, I would go with the Knobless.)
Purchased from Montessori Equipment, $36 (compare to $137.50 at Nienhuis)
My Pink Tower was a lovely surprise; solid, no off-gassing and has not chipped or dented with some serious toddler abuse and preschooler learning. (Many This is possibly my favourite Montessori material and I am really happy with the quality of this purchase.
A friend has had a Pink Tower from Montessori Equipment for many years and it shows major use but nothing that damages its purpose and the paint hasn’t flaked.
My purchase came with a replacement top cube (1 square centimeter) and I would advise adding at least two more to your order, they go missing quite easily.
Check out my lesson for presenting the Pink Tower here.
We DIYed ours, which would only be worth the cost and effort if making more than one (two of my friends planned on Montessori homeschooling so we hired a carpenter friend to make us each a set).
I personally like having the Brown Stairs as an option, and it helps transition children from the changes in 3-dimension offered by the Pink Tower to the changes in 1-dimension offered by the red rods, but if you couldn’t afford all materials, this is probably the big ticket item I’d skip.
Adena, $10.56 (compare to $55.50 Nienhuis)
This is not an essential Montessori material, but for the price I included it in our curriculum. The prisms are natural coloured, not available in brown which is curious to me, but they are good quality and lightweight.
I DIYed our set, but I was able to handle my friend’s set from Montessori Equipment. They were glossier than the other Montessori Materials that I had purchased, and I did notice some off-gassing.
This is an easy and cheap material to DIY, and I would skip the holder either way. (We used a plastic children’s mug to hold ours *cue shock & horror from the purists*)
Purchased from Montessori Equipment, $44 (compare to $195.50 at Nienhuis)
These were a great material, with no off-gassing and even the smallest pieces are solid and I don’t think they could be “snapped,” even by an adult.
Unless you already had the dowels or were splitting the cost of materials and labour with a friend (or two), DIYing this material would not be more affordable than purchasing, as you would need 10 different widths of dowel, four different colours of paint, and would need to make 36 precision cuts and sand all of the cylinders.
If you couldn’t find or purchase the knobless cylinders, I would not buy the knobbed cylinders, and I would purchase the knobless over the knobbed if I had to choose. (Ideally, these materials should be owned together.)
Purchased from Montessori Equipment, $30 (compare to $89.90 Nienhuis)
Great quality, pleasing to the hand and discernible differences between cylinders while still being challenging. The boxes look beautiful set out on a shelf.
I have DIYed several versions (I like doing holiday variations – like our Valentine’s Day sound hearts) but there is always one child who wants to pry a DIY version open and investigate!
I personally do not understand buying these with the scents as all of my friends who have purchased versions still need to add scent to them, or change out the scented materials often.
While this set of amber bottles from Montessori Services is beautiful, I have been very happy with my dollarstore cork and glass bottles with cotton balls and drops of food flavouring or essential oils added.
Check out Nicole’s guest post on the Smelling Bottles here.
I find having both Touch Boards and Touch Tablets to be somewhat redundant, and would prefer to only have the Touch Boards.
Purchased from Montessori Equipment, $17 (compare to $35.40 Nienhuis)
I didn’t find these to be an attractive material and while it served its purpose, I already had a DIY version that I am much happier with given the small time commitment and cost!
I gave my purchased set to a friend as they were still good quality.