Third Color Box (DIY and Presentation)

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 Making and Presenting the Third Colour Box

Many of the tutorials that I have found online stop at the Second Colour Box; the Third and “Fourth” Colour Boxes can be extremely intimidating, as they are very specific in the shades allowed (nothing too bright nor crude) and each box has 63 or 64 tiles, respectively. However, if you have already completed the Second Colour Box, you already have 9 of the necessary tiles for the Third Colour Box and 16 of the necessary tiles for the Fourth Colour Box.

For the Third Colour Box, prepare 63 tiles if you have not made the Second Colour Box, or do not wish to “build on” boxes, or if you plan to incorporate the Second Colour Box tiles, prepare 51 tiles.

The finished Box will have 7 graded shades of each of the following 9 colours:

  • Red
  • Blue
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Purple
  • Orange
  • Brown
  • Pink
  • Gray

Notice: no white or black tiles, as these are present in the process of “grading,” meaning that colours are given different shades because of the addition of black and white pigments. Black and white themselves do not have authentic shades — what we sometimes consider “different” whites are created by adding very subtle pigments from other colours.

Unlike the previous Boxes, there are no matching tiles for the Third Colour Box. The traditional Montessori Method would introduce two complete sets of the Third Colour Box when it comes time for matching (after the child perfects the grading task), however many companies instead offer the non-traditional Fourth Colour Box instead, to reduce costs and bulk of materials. Feel free to use your own discretion here — I personally opted for the Fourth, rather than a second Third.

Prepare (sand and shape) the tiles as before, attach the paint chips (or paint), cut off excess with an exacto knife, and place in a prepared box. If possible, place cardboard inserts into the box to separate the nine colour families.

To present the Third Colour Box, put all of the tiles for one colour on the table and ask the child to help find the darkest shade, and then the lightest shade (you can also ask the child to find the most “different” tiles of the provided shades, and then explain the concept of light v. dark). Ask the child to find the darkest of those remaining, and continue on until the shades are correctly graded. When the child is comfortably correctly grading each of the colour sets, set out two colour sets at a time.

I would suggest that parents only correct when working together on the Colour Boxes, and then allow children to make mistakes when working independently. As the Colour Boxes are self-correcting, the child will awaken to the colour differences when they are artistically capable of doing so. (If your child has a physiological difficulty perceiving colours, this would have become apparent to you in the Second Colour Box, any difficulties now are just perceptual and will correct themselves with exposure to the Colour Box materials.) Or, in Dr. Montessori’s own words:

She then leaves him alone to the interesting attempts which he spontaneously makes. It often happens that the child makes a mistake. If he has understood the idea and makes a mistake, it is a sign that he has not yet reached the stage of perceiving the differences between the graduations of one color. It is practise which perfects in the child that capacity for distinguishing the fine differences, and so we leave him alone to his attempts!

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