Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Montessori Sensorial Materials: The Cylinder Blocks

One work that Jordan has consistently gravitated to throughout the Montessori preschool year is with the Cylinder Blocks. He began working with one block at time and now enjoys challenging himself by placing all four blocks in a square formation.

Montessori Sensorial Materials: Jordan's Experience with the Cylinder Blocks

The material consists of four blocks each containing 10 cylinders with knobs, with each cylinder fitting into a respective hole in the block. Each block contains cylinders that vary in one or two dimensions.

In block 1 the cylinders vary in decreasing diameter only.

NAMC montessori sensorial materials the cylinder blocks block 1

In block 2, the cylinders vary in decreasing diameter and height.

NAMC montessori sensorial materials the cylinder blocks block 2

In block 3, the cylinders vary in decreasing diameter and increasing height.

NAMC montessori sensorial materials the cylinder blocks block 3

In block 4, the cylinders vary in decreasing height only.

NAMC montessori sensorial materials the cylinder blocks block 4

The Montessori Cylinder Blocks activity is a relatively simple exercise and I often watch in awe as children seem driven to repeat the exercise over and over again with intense concentration.

The Cylinder Blocks appeal to a preschooler’s love of order, allow for self correction, and refine the pincer grasp. The Cylinder Blocks also allow a child to feel weight differences based on the varying sizes of each cylinder.

When Jordan works with the Cylinder Blocks, it is as if, for him, nothing else in the Montessori classroom exists. I once heard him pretending aloud that each cylinder was a member of a family and it was time for them to go to bed. He tucked each one in bed by carefully placing them in their corresponding holes. It was adorable to hear him call each cylinder by name (tall man, skinny brother, short grandpa, etc.).

Once each cylinder was in the correct hole, he would say, “shhhh and now it’s time to sleep”. Then he proceeded to carefully carry the Cylinder Blocks back to the correct place on the shelf with such pride and satisfaction. It was intriguing to see him completely absorbed in what he was doing and I love that he has come back to this material time and time again throughout the course of the school year.

This year long series looks at the experiences of teachers, parents, students, and Montessori education itself, as we follow a student through his first year at a Montessori Preschool. Montessori Insights and Reflections of a Preschool Child’s First Year is a collection of useful stories, tips, and information that have arisen from one real student's Montessori journey.

Bree — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, June 14, 2011.


  1. How adorable!

    I have a question relating to these cylinders. My son who is 2 got quite frustrated when working with these the other day and started to cry when he couldn't get the cylinder to fit. I softly told him he should work on something else but he refused determined to continue even though it was making him upset. What should I do in this situation? Help him, insist he go onto something different or allow him to continue?

  2. What a determined little boy you have! If your son is still wanting to continue the activity even after you have gently suggested he try something else, I would simply point to the correct hole to give him some subtle guidance to ease his frustration. It is important not to say anything, just a gentle, guiding finger should suffice. If he gets frustrated with several of the cylinders, I would continue to simply point at the correct hole but make a mental note that he is maybe not quite ready for the cylinders. At the end of the day, I would simply remove the cylinders from the shelf and in a few weeks try again. I hope my response is helpful!

  3. Thanks very much. I think he is going through a time right now where he is just easily frustrated. I've removed the cylinders for now and added another nap to his day and he is doing much better. I think he's ready to be reintroduced to them soon.

    Thanks for your help!

  4. I love the way you are so in tune to your son's needs.....a true Montessori Mom! It sounds like the additional nap is making a world of difference and I'm sure he will be ready to be reintroduced to the cylinders in no time!


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