Montessori materials are scientifically precise and beautifully designed objects that children are naturally drawn to. They consist of concrete objects used to demonstrate abstract concepts in a tangible form. The children enjoy handling the objects without being consciously aware that they are engaged in learning. This is what makes Montessori material different from commercial toys and technological gadgets.
Many of the Montessori materials are multi-sensory and sequential materials to facilitate learning. Most of them are “self-correcting,” which means that the child can independently figure out when something is done incorrectly. That is why the materials are considered as aids to development rather than teaching aids.
The main way children are introduced to the materials in the classroom is through careful presentation. A presentation is a time when the teacher slowly and precisely uses the material in its intended way while an individual or small group of children observe. During such a presentation unnecessary words and movements are avoided and actions are broken into clear and distinct steps in order to increase understanding and the chance for success when the child uses the materials later. After repeated work with the materials has been observed, the teacher re-presents the material in order to show variations or extensions or to help the child learn the terminology involved. This helps the child to consolidate and express their understanding.
This is why a Montessori school states that the children ‘work with the material’. They are not merely ‘playing with toys’.