Montessori On a Budget

When I started off with Montessori 2 years ago I thought I needed all the materials.  They each have a specific purpose and skill they teach and they fit together in a perfect way.  I thought if I skipped one I’d miss something.  But over time I realized that a home won’t be exactly like a Montessori classroom.  Without the other children and without the set up of a specific class with only Montessori materials available, things are different.  Things work differently.  Things have to be adapted.  And most people don’t have the money or space for all the materials.  So this is what I would have done differently.  What materials I would have skipped or substituted or made myself (or which I did make myself) and which ones I’m glad I have.  Now what my kids weren’t interested in or loved may be different for someone else’s.  Each child is unique.  There isn’t one way or one answer, so these are just my experiences and thoughts.  I’ve only included the materials that we’ve reached in our journey.  There are more primary materials but we haven’t come to them yet so I can’t comment.  I highly recommend getting a set of albums to understand the scope and sequence of each material to help you decide what you need.  There are links to sites to purchase materials in the pictures and in the written text.

Language

Moveable Alphabet

I started off doing cursive because that is what is recommended in Montessori.  It’s said it’s easier for a child to write as they don’t have to take their pencil off the paper and that it activates a different part of the brain.  Pumpkin 1 learned the cursive lower case letters and picked up print letters on her own too but she really struggled with writing.  When she did start writing she wrote in print.  It seemed that cursive has too many steps to remember vs print.  She wants to write in print so I’m following her lead and have shifted my materials to print.  The print moveable alphabets are a little cheaper.  You could also get this verson on Amazon from Learning Resources set which is also magnetic

It doesn’t have as many letters as the wood moveable alphabet (and is the wrong colours) so if you do want more letters then buying two is about the same price as buying the wood set.  One set fits perfectly in this box.

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If money is really tight you could print off a paper version and the above box is a great way to store it too.

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Sandpaper Letters

I went with these sandpaper letters when I switched to print to use with Pumpkin 2.  I actually really prefer them.  The sandpaper is great, it doesn’t shed sand everywhere and they’re smaller which is helpful when it comes to storing.  They come in a nice sturdy box.  They’re not colour coded like the Montessori sandpaper letters are.

It’s also pretty easy to make your own “sandpaper” letters from sticky back felt.

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Another alternative is these grooved boards from IFIT Montessori.

These have upper and lower case letters and numbers and other symbols so it’s great bang for your buck.  You just need a stick of some sort for tracing.  I have these and they’re great quality.

Small Objects for the Sound Game or Sound Boxes

These aren’t necessary.  You can play the sound game with anything in a room or outside.  However my kids do really like them.  They like to sort them out.

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They can be a bit of a distraction though.  I had a bunch from my mother (who is a teacher) and bought a set from here.   Purchasing a set made things much easier and probably saves money in the long run vs trying to buy your own objects individually.  Their set also was carefully thought out with many of the objects able to be used for CVC words and phonograms as well as tricky letters like infant for “i” and vacuum for “v”.  One could also print off pictures.

Metal Insets 

These are great to have for developing writing skills.  They are super expensive though.  However, there is a very affordable plastic version available on Amazon.com (and ships to Canada).  I recommend having them.

Sensory

Pink Tower

I’d say it’d good to have this.  It’s still used pretty often by my kids.  I haven’t found a set of stacking blocks the same.  Having 10 is important (much of the sensory materials are in sets of 10) and the weight is very important (thus nesting boxes just aren’t the same).

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If you know a carpenter they could maybe cut a set for you.

Brown Stair

My son really loves the Brown Stair (mainly to drive cars down it which is a no no in Montessori but I gave up trying to stop him).  However, if you’re on a tight budget I’d skip it and just get the Pink Tower.  If you are going to get it go with the stained not painted version.  My painted version has chipped a lot and I wish I got a natural wood one to prevent this.

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I don’t recommend getting the mini set of either.  They just aren’t the same sensory experience.  I’d rather skip the Brown Stair than have a mini of both.

Knobbed Cylinders

For some reason I love these and find them very satisfying to do.  My kids were crazy about them from about 18 months to 2 and then weren’t interested in them again.

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Again don’t waste money on the mini set.  Either skip them or Montessori Outlet sells the blocks separably so you could just get 1 or 2 blocks.  If your child is 3 or older and you’re on a budget, just skip them.  I don’t know why I like them so much but my kids don’t.

Knobbless Cylinders

There isn’t really anything that is a substitute for these.  I’d recommend them.  I’d probably chose them over the Pink Tower if funds were limited just since they teach a similar concept of size difference in many different ways.

Red Rods

I wasn’t going to buy these but got them in an order mix up and kept them.  However, they were almost never used except by Pumpkin 2 as swords.  After a million times of taking them away and trying to get him to stop using them in dangerous ways or as a vacuum cleaner or lawn mower (??), I put them in the basement where they remain to this day.  Personally I’d go with cuisenaire rods.

They’re of course way smaller and different colours (so not one concept is isolated and you lose the weight difference) but they so much less dangerous and easier to store in a home.  You could paint them all one colour if you wanted.  When it comes to some of the sensory materials I feel free exploration is a better way to good.  That’s my Reggio side.  I’d rather let my kids play with a bunch of cuisenaire rods and learn through play.

Constructive Triangles

I’m going with the same philosophy when it comes to these too.  Learn through play.  I really love this Learning Resources set and so do my kids.

They’re great on the light table and so open ended.

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Another alternative is the regular pattern blocks.  There’s a ton of patterns you can print off online for kids to use.

My kids prefer the magnetic pattern blocks though.  We have this set by Melissa and Doug and it gets used often though it’s not as durable.  I also print off and laminate patterns and use them with the tiles on cookie trays.

Geo Solids

I haven’t found a set of Geometric Solids that has all the same shapes as the Montessori ones.  I’d say it’s important that they be solid wood for the weight (not foam or plastic).  The closest set I can find is this one.

But it has shapes you don’t need, different sizes and doesn’t have an ovoid.  You also don’t have the base pieces.  But if you’re on a budget this is probably your best bet.

Colour Tablets

My kids were just never interested in these.  I painted a set of wooden peg people which my kids liked better but it was tricky to get the shades right.

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Easiest thing would be to just get a bunch of paint chips and cut them and use them.  You could laminate them for durability.  Here are some more DIY ideas:

DIY Montessori Color Tablets

Sound Cylinders

These are pretty popular here.  But they’re not hard to make on your own.  See the below link for lots of ideas.

DIY Montessori Sound Cylinders

Binomial and Trinomial Cubes

There isn’t really an alternative to these however they don’t get much use in my home.  They may come in handy in the elementary years but they wouldn’t be first on my list to purchase of primary materials.  However, as I’ve mentioned, some kids really loves them so you’ll have to decide for yourself.

Geo Cabinet

Way too expensive and bulky to make practical for home use.  You can get shape puzzles and have your children trace them.

You can also make templates by tracing them for kids to match to.  When it comes to the more complicated shapes there are lots of other ways to teach those.  Smaller knobs are more desirable though as they teach the pincher grasp so have lots of regular wood puzzles with small knobs for your child to use.

Other Sensory Materials

There are a few other materials like the thermic tablets, baric tablets, fabric squares, smelling bottles, etc….  I think there are many other ways to do these sensory activities and some of the materials are easy to DIY.  What you get really depends on you budget.  Also many of these require you child to be blindfolded.  For some reason my kids always insist on peaking which defeats the purpose.

Math

Number Rods

I only have the table top number rods and those have been enough.  Honestly we’ve rarely used them.  My kids picked up numbers and one to one correspondence without them.  There’s so many ways to teach this, even just in daily life.  You wouldn’t miss them if you skipped them.

Numbers and Counters

Counters can be anything – stones, buttons, cars, blocks, paperclips, candies.  Fridge magnets can be the numbers.  Here we are using pine cones we collected with fridge magnets.
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Sandpaper Numbers

I’ve never had them or missed them.  You could get them, they’re not that expensive, or you could make your own set.  You could also get the grooved set mentioned under Sandpaper letters that contains the numbers too.

Spindle Box

It’s so easy to make your own of these with a tackle box from the Dollar Store and permanent marker and Popsicle sticks.

The great thing about the one I made is you can use it on the light table.  We’ve used plastic stir sticks and plastic ice cubes from the Dollar Store.

 

Stamp Game

Pumpkin 1 much prefers my DIY Stamp Game to the original.  And it was so inexpensive to make.

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Dollar Store tackle box, glass gems (I did have to hunt and pay more than I wanted for the red ones), permanent marker and wood peg people or you could use game tokens.  I just wrote the numbers on the bottom of the gems with permanent marker and voila.  Pumpkin 1 likes glass gems.  The numbers do tend to get scratch off with rattling around in the box so one day I may coat the bottom in clear nail polish.  This set doesn’t have everything the purchased Stamp Games does but we aren’t using those pieces yet and it won’t be hard to add.

Place Value Mat

Not exactly a Montessori material but I highly recommend having one.  We use it with the Golden Beads and the Stamp Game.  It’s fast and easy to make your own.

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100 Chart

This one from Learning Resources isn’t that much cheaper but it’s magnetic so one bump doesn’t ruin all your hard work.  Also you can write on it with a white board marker.  It’s two sided, one with numbers and the other with just the grid.

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Another idea is just to print one off and use stickers.  My kids LOVE stickers.

Teen and Ten Boards

I printed off the Teen Board from Montessori Print Shop and it’s been a hit.  I find kids like velcro (I cut velcro to fit in the middle of the “0” of the 10).  I bought a Ten Board.  Big flop. Pumpkin 1 hates it.  I should have just done a printed version.

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Hanging Bead Stair

There is a 1-9 version and a teen version.  They’re not traditional Montessori materials and not necessary to have.  However my kids have always enjoyed doing them.  I think they liked the fine motor aspect of hanging the beads.  You could get the teen one instead of the Teen Board.  But again, not necessary though nice to have.

Golden Beads and Math Beads

I love the bead materials.  For the Golden Beads one could use base ten blocks but you’d need a lot for the Montessori works.  You need at least 9 1000 cubes, 45 hundred squares, and lots of 10 and 1’s.  So it may not be worth the cost in the end.  Plus the beads really give a visual of the amount.  I made my own bead materials (well I should say making, I’m not finished yet though I’ve completed the Golden Beads).  I purchased the wood numbers for durability.  You need 3 smalls sets and 1 large set.  The purchased paper sets aren’t that much cheaper.  You can also print your own small for $1 and there’s free large ones here.

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Making your own bead materials isn’t hard, just time consuming.  Just make sure you use spherical beads not pony bead or you’ll wind up with rectangles.  Pumpkin 1 likes my cheap home made beads better than the purchases ones I have because my faceted ones are more sparkly.  Here’s a great tutorial on making your own bead materials  (Just note, if you do use wood beads like she did, it’s not going to save you much money.  Faceted beads are the most inexpensive way to go).  For the wood 1000’s cubes I’d just go with the store bought ones for durability though you can make paper ones.  I’d prefer them 3D for the sensory experience.  They’re not too pricey.  For the 45 100’s wood squares you can print ones off and laminate them.

 

Geography

World Puzzle Map

My kid prefer the felt one I made to our wood one.  It was a lot of work and you can’t trace it to make your own maps but I like it and it takes up less space.  The template is from Imagine Our Life and is free.

 

Flags

We do have a world flag map which is a big hit at our house.  Pumpkin 1 knows pretty much all the flags so I highly recommend it.

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But for the flags of all the countries this is what we did.

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The stickers are from this book and there’s two sets.  One set I put on the maps that come with the book and put them in a binder and the other set I put on wood rectangles.

Puzzle Maps

I do have all the Puzzle Maps as I got a good deal on them on clearance.  But one could use a globe and an atlas to learn the countries of the world.  There are also these cardboard geo puzzles.

If you do purchase the puzzle maps you’ll need a way to store them, they are big.  My shelf is made out of an old end table.

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Globes

They’re nice to have.  They’re not too hard to make yourself.  I found small globes at the Dollar Store.  This blog’s a great place for DIY ideas.

DIY Montessori Globes

Land Form Trays

Pumpkin 1 has always loved these.  I’d recommend having them as they’re a great sensory experience.  You can also make your own.  You’ll also need a way to store them.  If you purchase I recommend getting the cabinet too.

Easy DIY Land and Water Forms

Continent Boxes

Technically these are supposed to be folders of pictures.  This is a great inexpensive way to go.  But boxes are fun too.  Take your time and don’t try to fill them all at once.  I still haven’t done all the continents.  Montessori Print Shop has lots of photos and maps you can print off.  Many people like to add Safari Ltd Toob figures.

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You can put money in the box, books, flags, toys, whatever you come across.  Popular in ours is Viewfinder reels.

Botany and Zoology

Botany and Zoology Puzzles

I do have these and the storage shelves and they have been very popular in my home.  I didn’t realize when I purchased them that the Zoology ones corresponded to the types of Vertebrates and I don’t have the turtle and wish I did.  If I were to purchase again I’d spend a little more and get the ones with the bones underneath to fit in with the activities on Vertebrates.

Leaf Cabinet

I have this, I got a deal on it as it was a damaged display model.  However we never use it.  It’s not really necessary.  The metal insets teach the same skill and there are other ways to teach the type of leaf shapes.

Life Cycles

Not exactly a Montessori material, we really love our life cycle figures.  We have a combination from Safari Ltd and Insect Lore.  Some are available on Amazon, some at Michael’s stores (don’t forget to use a coupon, Michael’s always has coupons).

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We also use Safari Ltd figures not just in our Continent boxes and Life Cycles but learning about insects and Vertebrate and Invertebrate sorting.

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They are great to ask for for Christmas and birthday presents.

Music

Bells

You’re probably not going to easily find an affordable set of Montessori Bells so you’ll have to DIY.

Staff

I made my own staff materials.  I used gems for the scale and I printed and laminated notes for rhythm.  One could also just put their child in music lessons.  Pumpkin 1 was doing piano for a while but we took a break.

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Other

There is still other things you’ll need.

Shelves

You definitely need shelves.  Ideally they should be child height but if space and storage is a minimum taller is better.  Don’t forget to attach shelves to the wall for safety.  You can easily add more storage space to shelves by getting shelf board cut and buying shelf clips.  Also these kitchen storage racks work great on cube shelves.

Work Mats

Carpets from the Dollar Store or Walmart work well.  Some people use towels.  One with lines works well for the Moveable Alphabet.

Album

These are a MUST have in my opinion if you are homeschooling Montessori.  I feel Keys of the World are excellent and the most affordable.

Laminator

There are many materials you can print off.  Having a good laminator is a must.  I have this one.

It used to be for sale on Amazon.ca but it seems to be gone.  You can check Walmart or Staples.  You don’t need a very expensive one but you will need lots of laminating sheets.

Practical Life Items

You can get most of these at the Dollar Store or use items around your house.

Trays

You’ll need lots of storage trays.  I do like the look of wood trays but plastic works fine.  There are lots of trays at the Dollar Store.  Try to use all the same colour, like white or tan, to keep it from being distracting.

 

So I know I’ve probably forgotten some things but I hope this is a pretty helpful list of the materials and what has worked and hasn’t worked for us.  I hope it helps those who are just starting out make the difficult decisions on how to Montessori on a budget and what to purchase.

 

 

Introduction to Addition

So our new math materials from IFIT arrived quicker than I expected.  I was very happy with the quality.  I’ve always been happy with my purchases from there.  Pumpkin 1 was excited to use them.  I realized after that I should have done the change game before addition, though it’s not necessary.  However now that we’ve done addition I think I’ll stick to static addition (no carrying) and then introduce changing once she’s confident with addition.  I’m planing to teach her to add from left to right than right to left since that’s how you use the soroban.

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So first we did two amounts on different mats.  The wooden cubes and squares and the large and one of the small number sets are all from IFIT>

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Then we moved all the materials onto one carpet to “add” them together.  It’s such an ingenious way to teach addition and really gives a child the concrete, hands-on experience of it.

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I’d been struggling on how to move forward with language and the moveable alphabet with Pumpkin 1.  Someone suggested trying the Montessori Pink Series.  I downloaded the card set for free from The Helpful Garden.  It went over really well.  Pumpkin 1 was really into writing the words.  I think it helped to have them sorted by the vowel.  It was too hard for her to hear the different vowels so this way it’s easier for her to break down the word to write it.

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Later I caught her trying to sound out words in a learning to read book.  We’ve looked at the books before but she hadn’t figured out the concept of sounding the words out so I put it aside.  It’s exciting that she’s transferring the knowledge to other areas.  It’s hard to trust the Montessori process because it’s different than what’s traditionally done, but it really works!

 

At Last…Our Playroom/School Room

I finally have our playroom “almost” how I want it.  It’s not a very big room so it’s been a challenge to have everything I want organized yet there still be room to play.  This room doubles as a playroom/daycare room/school room so it’s not an ideal Montessori room.  Also with Pumpkin 2 going to be getting into everything before I know it, I’ve had to arrange things so that materials with small parts are up high.  So, with that in mind, enjoy your tour!

Lots of light from the two windows.

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Looking to the right of the room.  Against the gate is a carrom board, a game from India.  You can’t see them but beside the chair is a pail that holds two carpets for doing our work on.

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Looking to the left of the room.  Do any other mothers have the same problem of their stuff being all disorganized while the kids’ toys are all neat and tidy?

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The drawers on the right have all the craft stuff.  The containers on the top usually have pipe cleaners in them but the kids use them up fast.  The shelf has the metal insets on the top, below is the geometric cabinet and board games, below that is a basket with cards for the cabinet, emotion cards and the land form trays.  Bottom shelf has a toy laptop and the doctor’s kit, playdough and a file with different types of craft paper in it.  The shelf is a 9 cube shelf that I put together without all the dividers so that I’d have more space.

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This white shelf is an end table that I’ve made into a light table.  The world map puzzle is stored on top as there isn’t really anywhere else to put it.  Underneath are puzzles, movable alphabet and in the container is pre-reading card activities.  On the bottom are puzzles and our magna tiles (a favourite with all the kids).

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On the window ledge here you can see the small pieces from the pink tower and the knobless cylinders.  On the shelf I have the knobbed cylinders which have small pieces in them and the sand paper globe which also has the pin that is a choking hazard.  The top row is a shape sorter, our French books and Montessori puzzles.  Below that is board books, Wedgits (another favourite) and a stacking toy and puzzle.  Bottom shelf is toy trucks, object permanence box and Hape peg puzzle.

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This is our reading corner.  I need to make it a little more cozy.  And maybe a mirror on the wall.  You can also see the dressing frames leaning against the shelf.  I need to find a place for them still.

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This is our main Montessori shelf.  The drawers on the top hold the objects for the language sounds.  There is also some cards and a container of cards, some Toob figures I just got and a bingo dabber picture done by Pumpkin 1.  First row is magnetic Mighty Mind, Melissa and Doug spelling puzzle and sandpaper letters.  Next row is some fine motor activities, the knobless cylinders, and the touch boards and Thermic tablets.  Below that is my cloth spindle “box” and number peg boards, the baric tablets and weigh scale and the geometric solids.  New row is the pink tower, Melissa and Dough latch puzzle and the colour box.  The bottom has the brown stairs, screw board and our music instrument box.  To the left of the shelf is the red rods.

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This is our calendar and weather chart and the shelf has our toys in it.  Cars, Jenga blocks, Barbies, animals, connecting toys, tools, peg board, Little People, scarves, Pumpkin 2’s toys, and Duplo.

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This is our new Elves and Angels’ kitchen.  The shelf has a box of dress up clothes, play food and dishes and above that the Leaf cabinet and our music collection.  Above that is materials for Practical life activities (out of reach of Pumpkin 2) and above that is a bunch of stuff for crafts.

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So that is our playroom.  It’s been a long time in the making and will probably still go through changes.  It’s not ideal, lots of things out of reach, but I think it’s more important to be safe.  Most of the Montessori material is too advanced for Pumpkin 1 but she’ll be old enough for it before I know it.  Also I use it with my 3 year old daycare child and sometimes with my after school daycare children.  I think I’ve done a good job with the amount of space we have.  Everything is organized and not too cluttered.  The toys are mostly open ended toys or learning toys.  We have a nice area on the floor to work and a beautiful table to work at, just the right height.  The rocking chair is great for me to watch from and nurse Pumpkin 2 in.  The room is safe enough for Pumpkin 2 to roll around and pull stuff off the shelves at his height and Pumpkin 1 can reach most of the things.  The gate keeps the dogs out and the kids out when need be and keeps them in when I need them in.  The walls are simply decorated and I’m able to display the children’s art work.  I did put things above their eye level but I don’t want things ripped of the wall and the paint ruined.  So, would you like to come and learn with us?

What Materials Should I Get for my Preschooler?

This is the difficult question for all parents starting out in Montessori.  There are so many materials and they can be quite expensive.  Do I need them all?  Can I substitute something else?  What can I make myself?  Why do I need that material?  It can be so hard to decide.  First off I recommend reading David Gettman’s “Basic Montessori”.  When you have an understanding of what the purpose of each material is, you’ll be better able to decide what you need now and what can wait and what you can skip.

There are lots of DIY ideas online for Montessori materials.  For me, however, I just don’t have the time to make things.  I don’t have time to go shopping to find the materials to make them, and then I don’t have time to put them together, and maybe it’s just because I’m in Canada, but often it costs the same, if not more, to make it myself.  And then what usually happens is I’m not happy with the result and I wind up purchasing what I tried to make and I’m out the money I spent trying to do it myself.  So I tend to purchase.  If you have the time and skill to make things yourself, go ahead, just don’t under-estimate the amount of time it’ll take and the expense.

So, what should you buy for your little preschooler?  Well here’s Pumpkins and Me’s must have Montessori list: (Links to my favourite Canadian site to purchase from IFIT in the headings)

Knobbed Cylinder Blocks: If you have a 2-3 year old, these are a big hit.  Heck, even I love doing them.  They not only stimulate spacial recognition, the knobs help children learn proper pencil grip.  I don’t recommend the Mini Cylinder blocks because they’re too easy. Your child will figure them out quickly.  If you can’t afford the whole set, Montessori Outlet sells them individually.  Blocks 1 & 3 change by height and width, blocks 2 & 4 change by just one aspect, either height or width.  Blocks 2 & 4 are more challenging than 1 & 3.  If you can, especially if you have a little one, get the whole set.

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Pink Tower:  This is another must have in my book.  Now you might be wondering why you can’t just use plastic nesting and stacking blocks or the like.  With the Pink Tower a child can feel the difference in weight between the blocks.  Also they’re all one colour so there is nothing to distract from the sensory learning experience of size.  Also the sensory materials tend to be in groups of 10 to start awareness of number grouping.

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Knobless Cylinders There are so many things that can be done with the Knobless Cylinders.  Each box contains 10 cylinders of varying heights and widths.  They can be combined into so many patterns and there are many extensions that can be printed off to use with them.  However they aren’t introduced until Period 5 in Gettman, but I use them with my 2 year old, they’re a little advanced for her but a 3 year old would have no problem with them.

Geometric Solids:  These are a wonderful sensory experience for children.  My 2 year old likes to match them with the bases.  She’s learned the names of most of them already too.  There are other sets out there that are cheaper.  Here’s some from Scholar’s Choice.  However, like the Pink Tower, I think it’s best if they’re all one colour.  Also, keep in mind that the Nomenclature cards usually depict the blue Montessori shapes.

Geometric Cabinet: This is an expensive purchase but I feel it’s an important one.  You could try making your own out of foam board but I think it’d be a tricky task.  This material has so many uses.  A puzzle, learning shapes, the knobs are good preparation for pencil holding and as the child learns to trace around the shapes and the frames with their finger they’re preparing for tracing the metal insets.  Also, if you can’t afford the metal insets, you can have your child trace the insets in the Geometric Cabinet if you’re ok with them getting marked up a bit.  The Geometric Demonstration Tray is sold separately, so you might want to get it as well, though it isn’t really necessary.  For $5 you might want to consider getting the Control Chart as some of those names of triangles are tricky.

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Binomial Cube: This isn’t something that you can easily make yourself and you’re not really going to find anywhere else.  It’s important for developing the child’s visual perception of three dimensional patterns.

Red Rods: These wouldn’t be too hard to make yourself.  I was going to get my husband to make them but I was sent them by mistake and decided to pay to keep them.  They are quite big but I think that makes the sensory experience that much more interesting.  I was tempted to purchase just the Number Rods but the lines would distract from the sense of length.  Numbers aren’t introduced until Period 3 in Gettman so I’d recommend getting the Red Rods.  There is also small Number Rods available, so you could save money by getting them instead of the large ones.  If you’re lacking in space I’d recommend getting the Rod Stand as well.

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Sandpaper Numbers: These aren’t introduced until Period 4 in Gettman so they’re something you can wait on.  They wouldn’t be too difficult to make yourself.  I don’t recommend the Sandpaper materials from Montessori Outlet.  They put some type of glue on the wood and cover it with coarse sand.  It’s sheds like crazy, making a mess, and feels terrible, it’s just too coarse.  The sandpaper materials for IFIT and Affordable Montessori are much nicer.

Sandpaper Letters: These are an important material for learning.  Combining touch with learning cements it in the brain.  You want to teach the lower case letters first so don’t purchase the Upper Case letters until later.  Also, you’ll need to decide if you want to teach cursive or print.  Cursive is usually taught in traditional Montessori but nowadays many schools and parents teach print.  I have heard it’s a read chore to make these yourself but you could try.  Affordable Montessori has a mini set in print of both lower and upper case.  Here’s a different option from IFIT that has number and letters but it looks like they are groved into wood rather than sandpaper letters, but they would serve the same purpose.  There is also a set on Amazon.ca

Sandpaper & Colour Globes:  These is also difficult to make yourself, but there are several DIY tutorials on the net.  This is introduced in Period 1 in Gettman.  The one on IFIT is said to be not good quality.  I have the Sandpaper globe from Affordable Montessori and it looks very similar and the quality seems fine to me.  The children really like to feel the globe.  In Montessori the continents each have a colour that is used on the puzzles and the globe so that is why you might want to consider having the Montessori globe rather than a regular one.  If money is tight, just get the Sandpaper Globe.

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Moveable Alphabet:  This isn’t introduced until Period 4, after the I Spy game and the Sandpaper letters are completed.  Why the Moveable alphabet rather than just magnetic letters?  Because the Movable Alphabet comes with multiples of each letter so the child can write words.  Writing comes before reading in Montessori.  Also there is the option of cursive letters.  This is something that you can wait to get.  Montessori Outlet offers the letters separate from the box so you can save money, but I recommend getting a box as it allows you to store the letters sorted so your child isn’t frustrated trying to find the letter he wants.  However, you might be able to find other storage options.  I haven’t reached this stage yet but I think you’d only need the lower case.  By the time your child is using upper case they will most likely be writing on their own.  Another option is to print out multiples of each letter and laminate them or purchase this.

What about all the other materials?

Brown Stair:  This is expensive and not necessary, though there are a lot of extensions you can do combining the Brown Stair and Pink Tower.  If you can afford it, it’s nice to have.  If you can’t, then you’ll be fine without it.

Spindle Box: This is one thing I made my own version of.  Read about it here.  There are also lots of other DIY ideas on line.  Another option that I actually like better and is great for younger ones is this from Scholar’s Choice.

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Colour Boxes: There are tons of colour activities you can do with objects around the house or make from paint chips that this is defiantly one area you can skip purchasing.  If you did want to purchase, IFIT has a Box 4 that can be used for grading shades and matching colours.

Metal Insets: Definitely not necessary but they’re really nice.  You could instead have your child trace the shapes in the Geometric Cabinet or get some stencils to trace.  If you can afford it, I’d get them.  Montessori Outlet sells them without the stands so you can get them for a little less.

Touch Tablets, Thermic Tablets, Baric Tablets, Sound boxes:  First off, my feeling is that these are great in a classroom, but not necessary at home.  There are so many daily experiences you can give your child without these.  Feeling ice cubes, feeling how heavy things are, talking about soft, smooth, rough toys, different sounds, etc… Also it’s not too hard to make your own touch Tablets and Sound boxes.

Bells: Music as been shown to expand brain development.  If you can have your child be part of music classes that’d be great.  My daughter is going to start piano lessons around 4 or 5.  Montessori bells are really expensive but I’m planning to do what the mother at What Did We Do All Day blog did.  I purchased my bells from Scholar’s Choice.  If you can’t afford it, do make sure music is a part of your day.

Dressing Frames:  I have these but I don’t find them practical because the way you do up snaps and buttons and zippers on a frame is different than when you do it on yourself.  If you know someone who can sew, these are a much better option.  Or just teach them with their clothes.

Construtive Triangles: The blue ones are not too expensive if you want to purchase them.  My plan is to make them out of foam.

Mystery Bag:  At $12 it’s quite affordable, but at the same time you could make your own with objects around the house.

Map Puzzles: These are quite large.  You can easily make a world map out of felt.  Here’s an awesome one I’d love to make if I had the time from Imagine Our Life.  The advantage to the wood puzzle is that the child can trace the pieces to make their own maps.  If you can afford it, get the World Puzzle.

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Zoology and Botany Puzzles: These are quite affordable, so if you’re looking for some more complicated puzzles for your child, you might want to get a few.  Otherwise they’re used for teaching parts of the animal and plants in Period 3.  I think a child can learn just as well with Nomenclature cards and growing beans in a glass jar.

Botany Cabinet:  Not necessary.  You could easily use cards to teach classification by leaf and have a child trace the geometric cabinet frames with a cuticle stick.

Land and Water Form Trays and Sandpaper Cards:  The trays can be made with Plasticine in plastic trays.  If you can afford it and want something more lasting then I’d purchase them.  The kids really love them.  The sandpaper cards are easy to make yourself.

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Trays, Jugs, and Practical Skills:  These are best bought at places like the Dollar Store, Target or even at Thrift Stores.

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