This is part two of my Montessori Sensorial Materials review. Check out part one here.
I firmly believe that you can implement the Montessori Method on a budget and that just because you cannot afford high quality Montessori materials means that you need to endure bad materials or shoddy workmanship.
Here are my honest opinions about the budget-priced Montessori Sensorial Materials that I have purchased or experienced.
No review as I have not experienced a purchased version of these, even in a classroom setting. They are incredibly cheap to make, and can even be made completely free. Also, many purchased versions do not even attempt similar colour palettes for the fabric, which to me is an essential component of this material (Montessori places an emphasis on isolation of difference).
Purchased from Adena, $25.25 (compare to $131.60 at Nienhuis)
While there is a discernible variance between the cylinders, I am not sure that I would recommend this set to anyone on a budget — just because the material is not necessarily one that is “deep” enough to warrant investment.
The quality is good, nothing cracked, the cylinder pressures match perfectly, etc. And children like the small cylindrical shape and the ability to push the buttons whenever they want, although the “high resistance” cylinders are even difficult for an adult to press and have frustrated most of the children.
I played around with a friend’s 4 year old geometric solids from a higher-end company and they were excellent quality – no chips, still glossy, and the weight was perfect.
For us, we went with the Geometric Solids from Learning Resources for $16.64. I thought this fun alternative was more affordable and would convey different concepts (volume, light diffusion, etc), but my first set arrived with chips. I contacting the company and was sent a replacement set — also pre-chipped. However, we’ve been using them lightly for over a year now and the chips have not gotten worse and none of them have cracked or damaged in any way.
They come with a great tray to store them in that can be used as a bit of a puzzle, whereas you would have to purchase the tray with a traditional geometric solids set.
Purchased from Adena, $15.18 (compare to $101.50 at Nienhuis)
I’m really happy with this product and its quality, especially for the cost. The material is beautiful, I can’t remember if it had off-gassing but if it did it was nothing major that required it to be set outdoors. The box was well-constructed and the hinges worked properly — some suppliers sell the box alone for the cost of this whole material, so I consider this to have been a really great investment.
The paint has chipped slightly with use, and the blue square on the box is the wrong shade of blue, but I’m okay with that and am not looking at fixing it. Adena also offers a $20 cube, which might have a slightly higher quality when it comes to the paint.
In my mind, this is an essential material that has no equivalent DIY options.
(I have since purchased the Trinomial Cube from Montessori Equipment and have the same opinions as to its use and quality.)
Purchased from Montessori Equipment, $18 (compare to $69.90 Nienhuis)
Beautiful feel, good quality. The set comes with a full box of each tablet type, so I split this set with two friends for $6 each and we all walked away with a pair of each of the three tablets.
I think this would be very hard to DIY — you need three very specific types of wood and I think it would not be worth the cost unless you already had access to free scraps.
Purchased from Montessori Equipment, $20 (compare to $60.70 Nienhuis)
Beautiful look and feel, good quality. I gathered the supplies to DIY this material and I can honestly say that the amount of time I spent sourcing materials and the amount of time it would have taken to ensure that all of the materials were safe enough for frequent toddler/preschooler handling was not worth the DIY efforts.
Purchased from Montessori Equipment, $135 (compare to $506 Nienhuis)
I’m very happy with the quality of this cabinet, especially when compared to my Adena Botany Cabinet (which I’ve had to reglue all of the knobs for).
The insets are plastic, but the knobs are connected to the shapes, so there is no risk of the knobs falling off. The cabinet “drawers” can be easily removed for tray work/presentation and the unit is solidly built.
Instead of purchasing the very expensive Montessori hand bells, I instead purchased two sets of the Schylling Musical Handbells for less than $60 (compare to $979 Nienhuis) — you can also sometimes get these as cheap as $20 per set on sale. I find the quality great, however this was definitely one of those materials where I noticed how gentle Ella is compared to other children – she owned her set for over a year with no chipping or wear (despite daily use) but once we started the preschool and added the second set, I started seeing little chips from the bells being dropped or mouthed by the younger children.
(I have since put these up where children need to request access as dropping the bells could affect their accuracy.)
Many bloggers have posted about painting one set black and one set white; I might paint the outside of one set white, but I couldn’t paint both — they are simply too beautiful.
The cheapest option I was able to find when looking for these was $64 for all five boxes, which I just cannot justify when a DIY option would be so much cheaper. Even if you purchased a printable for the triangles and laminated them (with bulk purchased laminate sheets), it would still be much cheaper and well worth your time.
Want more information about Montessori Sensorial? Be sure to check out my Montessori Sensorial page where you can easily find all Montessori Sensorial posts and a free printable for the sequence of Montessori Sensorial work.