Understanding Montessori Materials – The Knobbed Cylinders

Montessori materials can be a bit mystifying for anyone who has not seen them at work. On the surface they may appear simplistic, yet there is a great deal of thought behind these unique classroom tools.

The knobbed cylinders are part of the original set of Montessori materials. With an excellent hands-on introduction to size, the knobbed cylinders give young Montessori students indirect preparation for mathematics while learning about dimensions and developing fine motor skills.


Tyler Working with Knobbed Cylinders

This set of four blocks, each with a series of cylinder insets which vary in size, help to develop the child’s visual discrimination of size as cylinder sets vary in height and/or diameter. In addition, the knobbed cylinders indirectly prepare children for writing, through the physical handling of the cylinders by their knobs. These fingers are also used in the manipulation of many simple tools such as a spoon, scissors etc. The hand is being trained for manipulation skills in a methodical way.

A graduated sequence of exercises are offered through the material, as students learn to judge size by height, and in time, reach an understanding of the more abstract concept of dimension. Once proficient in one knobbed cylinder set, the child can take out multiple cylinder sets at a time to add further challenge with more variety of height and diameter.

Not only do students learn about size and dimension through the knobbed cylinders, but they gain vocabulary related to these topics, practice left to right progression and learn beginning problem solving skills. This knowledge enables them to observe and interact with their environment with greater awareness and insight.

Like all Montessori materials, the knobbed cylinders are self-correcting. When a piece does not fit, or is left over, the student will know he or she is not yet finished. Children are able to determine that a problem exists and take steps to address the problem without any intervention from a teacher. This produces a deep sense of accomplishment!

The knobbed cylinders are just one of many sensorial materials which support abstract concepts. Is there a Montessori material you would like to know more about? Leave us a comment and we’ll feature it in an upcoming blog. If you would like to learn more about Montessori materials, please give us a call or drop in to our Whitby campus for a tour.


Kendalwood Montessori & Elementary School is Durham Region’s first fully accredited Montessori school. At Kendalwood, we believe that our job is to inspire children to become the best students they can be. With a curriculum that focuses on developing the intellect as well as nurturing self-esteem, academics are taught, curiosity is cultivated and respect is fostered. Our approach creates an environment where students flourish and develop a lifelong love of learning.

Montessori in the Digital Age

In the Montessori teaching community, the word ‘technology’ can incite some pretty spirited conversation. Opinions on the role of technology in a Montessori classroom vary drastically – some schools are embracing digital tools and incorporating them into their classrooms with an evolutionary attitude, while extremists feel that there is no place for technology in a traditional Montessori program. Each school decides their own unique approach to technology within their curriculum based on their philosophy.


Elementary Students

As an innovator in her field, Maria Montessori was known for her scientific approach to education. Her materials were considered unconventional by many at the time, but she persisted in her research and science now vigorously supports her body of work. At Kendalwood, we feel that digital literacy should be approached with the same innovative mind set   which Dr. Montessori applied to her educational philosophy. We are living in the digital age and we cannot disregard the importance of e-literacy in our world.

Integrating technology into the classroom is a well thought-out process at Kendalwood and we will always consider authentic Montessori principles and practices when we employ digital teaching and learning.  At the Pre-Casa and Casa level we favour hands-on and personal interactions combined with authentic Montessori materials, opting to wait until the Elementary program to introduce any digital components into the curriculum. Once a foundation for learning is well established and students are ready, computers or other digital tools are presented to complement their studies.

“I see digital technology as a way of bringing the world closer for the digital native child analogous to the way books must have done for a child in the Middle Ages.”

Mark Powell, Elementary Teacher, American International Montessori School, Via Montessori Madmen Blog

At Kendalwood, we value the power of technology to transform learning experiences and create learning opportunities beyond our Whitby Montessori campus. Our students are provided with the best of both worlds – expanded classroom experiences, strong e-literacy and hands on computing skills combined with an authentic Montessori approach to learning and development of the whole child. We think Dr. Montessori would agree wholeheartedly!

Outdoor Education Provided by Kendalwood in Whitby ON

Nature and the outdoor environment are essential components of authentic Montessori education. In our work to develop the whole child, we teach students about the world around them and make important connections to help each child understand their place in that world. Children learn best about their world when they can go out and experience it firsthand. Relating what we are learning in the classroom to the people and the environment that make up the broader community provides important context to and adds meaning to our lessons. The outdoor environment is an extension of the Montessori classroom.

“When the child goes out, it is the world itself that offers itself to him. Let us take the child out to show him real things instead of making objects which represent ideas and closing them up in cupboards.”       – Dr. Maria Montessori

Kendalwood Montessori Extends the Classroom Outdoors

Outdoor Class

Outdoor Writing Class

Our campus reflects the value Montessori philosophy places on nature and outdoor education. With plenty of green space and our very own “Enchanted Forest”, students enjoy spending time in our outdoor classroom. Named the Enchanted Forest by our students, these mature trees offer an escape from the sun on hot days and a beautiful backdrop for outdoor lessons.

Kendalwood enjoys several gardens around the school which students take an active role in maintaining throughout the school year. They manage all the primary tasks including annual planting, weed pulling and raking leaves.  We also spend plenty of time playing outside! We have two large playground areas with age-appropriate structures for our toddlers and Pre-Casa students and another for older students.

Winter Carnaval

Winter Fun

Adjacent to the school we have access to an expansive soccer field which we use for track and field along with other activities for our Phys. Ed program – including soccer of course! In the winter we use the field for seasonal activities such snowshoeing and our Winter Carnival event.

Each year, our elementary students take part in an outdoor education trip to Camp Muskoka where they have an opportunity to be fully immersed in the outdoor experiential learning program. It is truly an unforgettable experience!

At Kendalwood, we are passionate about authentic Montessori education and we strive to provide a well-rounded and integrated program designed to prepare students for today’s complex and rapidly changing world. Our outdoor education program is part of the Kendalwood Difference.

toddler yard soccer field playground


Montessori Environment Enriches Learning and Development

If you have been following our blog, you have likely heard us mention the “prepared environment” in reference to our classrooms. This concept is central to authentic Montessori education, so we will explore it in more detail this week.

A Montessori classroom is designed with great care. At first glance, the classroom looks neat and tidy – almost sparse. Upon closer inspection, you will see the classroom is filled with a variety of carefully selected materials and activities. Everything has a purpose and a clearly defined home. In addition to being orderly, the space is designed to be visually appealing. Plants, natural light, and fine art are commonly found in a Montessori classroom.

However, the arrangement, planning and intent of a Montessori classroom goes so much deeper than the visual aesthetics. Dr. Montessori knew that the classroom environment could facilitate independent learning and discovery when the space was well planned and arranged to support children.  She used the term the Prepared Environment to explain her approach to the arrangement and set up of a classroom.

 “The first aim of the prepared environment is, as far as it is possible, to render the growing child independent of the adult.”

–       Maria Montessori. The Secret of Childhood, 1966

Everything in a Montessori classroom is intentionally placed to elicit a positive response and invoke learning in the child. Materials are accessible on open shelves, arranged on trays to easily transition to a work station. A large carpeted area and child sized furnishings provide ample space and options for students to work comfortably. The prepared environment provides a natural sense of order which permeates the classroom and students are afforded a high degree of independence as a result.  A calm yet industrious buzz of activity ensues.



Casa Classroom

Guiding Principles of the Prepared Environment

1. Freedom
The classroom and all of its contents are available to the students throughout the day. The classroom materials are spread out through the classroom to allow children the opportunity to move freely through the classroom – children can work at a table, on the floor, standing, etc.

2. Structure and Order
Dr. Montessori stated that there is a sensitive period for order for children between the ages of 1-3. During these early years, the order of the classroom provides an introduction and a methodology for students to make sense of their world.

3. Beauty
The Montessori classroom should be beautiful, warm and inviting. A tranquil environment will encourage the child to be calm; the beautiful room will encourage a child to take care of it.


Practical Life

4. Nature and Reality
The best way for children to learn about the world is to go out and experience it! In Montessori education, children are exposed to the Culture area of the classroom where they explore concepts and information about their environment and the greater world at an early age. This approach supports an appreciation and understanding of the environment, our community and the broader global community that makes up our home. A desire to care for the environment and each other is a natural extension.

5. Social Environment
The freedom and self-discipline within the classroom environment encourages children to interact with their peers. Classrooms consisting of students from a three-year age span enable younger students to rely on older peers for guidance and support. The elder students are then able to be role models and leaders for their younger classmates. This reciprocal dynamic benefits all ages in developing confidence, self-esteem, empathy and learning to work in groups.

6. Intellectual Environment
In addition to the five areas of the classroom (Practical Life, Sensorial, Math, Language and Culture) that stimulate the child’s intellect, overall growth and development culminates with the combination of all of the preceding components (1-5).

Our Prepared Environment at Kendalwood

The Kendalwood campus is a reflection of our commitment to the Montessori Method and the guiding principles of the prepared environment.  We offer warm and inviting classrooms with an abundance of natural light, gleaming hardwood floors, and personalized cubbies. The entire campus is exceptionally bright and airy, creating an idyllic Montessori learning environment. Spacious outdoor areas include a wide open soccer field and multiple play areas with safe and age appropriate equipment. This backdrop regularly extends our classrooms to the outdoors. Our campus also offers a large, flexible space for indoor athletics, group learning and school wide activities.

The Kendalwood environment allows our students to be the centre of their own learning, in a space made specifically for the students. Are you looking for a place for your child to be inspired?  Drop in to our next Open House or book a tour to see us in action! We are located in Whitby, Ontario in the heart of Durham Region.