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Added Nov 7, 2016

Montessori Monday: Matching Small Objects

As you walk around the Montessori classroom, you may notice multiple trays filled with small matching baskets, filled with little animals, shells, or other figures. These materials may be found in the Sensorial area or in the Cultural Materials, and offer important foundational skills for children through lessons that are well-matched to their development.

Many parents express curiosity about their children\\'s fascination with small objects, a fascination that Montessori also identified and termed "The Sensitive Period to Small Objects." When children move through this developmental window, they demonstrate an almost compelling interest in small figures and other objects. They may carry pockets full of tiny pebbles. They make be absorbed in looking at special objects they can hold in their hands. This developmental window (which appears first in late infancy, then again when children are generally around three and a half) allows the child to build visual discernment, to learn to focus his or her eyes on the tiny details that distinguish one small object from another. It draws on the child\\'s interest in exerting control and agency in his or her environment, appealing to their interest in moving and ordering their space.

Because we know this fascination is likely to be demonstrated in children in our classrooms, we provide lessons that expand on children's other skills by engaging them through the Sensitive Period to Small Objects. Matching Animals, which Heloise is enjoying in the image here, allows children to expand on their vocabulary, to develop their visual and tactile discrimination and to practice enacting their sense of order. When children are naturally drawn to the small objects, then teachers can use that engagement to "sneak in" other skills.

The next time your child insists on stopping to look a little longer at a tiny treasure, think about the Sensitive Period to Small Objects. You might not be able to rush your child through it, but you can use it as a chance to talk together, to notice and wonder about the differences and to offer your child the words to use to describe his or her fascination.

Catherine McTamaney,Ed.D.

Christopher Academy Alumna

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