Spotlight on Material: Colour Boxes

The Montessori colour boxes are vibrant, attractive materials nested within the Montessori Sensorial curriculum area. The Sensorial materials aid in the child’s natural development of his or her senses; they help refine these senses as each child progresses through the activities. As with all other materials in the classroom, the Sensorial area integrates the child’s primary senses, movement and language.

Montessori stated, “The secret of preparing one for a particular skill consists in utilizing that period of life between the ages of three and six, when there is a natural inclination to perfect ones senses and movements.” (Toronto Montessori Institute)

And, of course, for very young children the development of their sensori-motor skills are crucial as a foundation for their learning later in life.

Aristotle stated, “There is nothing in the intellect which was not first in the senses!” So that not only are we able to abstract a concept, but we are also able to universally apply the concept.


(Photo credits: Toronto Montessori Institute)


Progression & Isolation of Difficulty

Each item in a Montessori classroom is carefully designed so that its direct purpose is isolated and apparent to each child working with the material. Activities are presented by the directress in a clear logical and sequential fashion.

The main aims of the colour boxes are, of course, so that children are able to visually identify colours, verbally identify colours, match colours and grade different shades of colours. Each of the tablets from all three colour boxes are made of the same material and are all the same size so that the child’s attention is drawn to the only difference – the colours.

Colour box 1 begins with the three primary colours – yellow, blue and red.

Colour box 2 introduces secondary and tertiary colours.

Colour box 3 presents various shades of colours within nine colour families.

Children grade the colours in each set from darkest to lightest.

Children also work on classifying groups of colours as tablets are mixed together.


Extensions & Socialization

Children are always welcome to explore with the materials as long as the child does so in a constructive and productive way. Games and extensions are introduced to the children using the colour boxes to foster even more language, movement and socialization.


Colour Box 2 and Application to the Environment

Matching games with colour box 2 encourage the child to apply the concept of colour to tangible items in his or her environment thereby experiencing abstract concepts in real ways. It also provides children with a means to classify their environments.

This is done by either bringing objects to the tablets…

… or bringing colour tablets to the objects.


Colour Box 3 and Designs

The numerous tablets available to children often spark creations for one or two children within their work area. In this case, a nonagon was used from the Geometry Cabinet and the tablets were used to create the rays of the sun.

Children may find other designs to explore and create, discovering new and fresh ways to manipulate the material.



Teachers also introduce the corresponding language for each box. The French teachers mirror this, too.

Colour box 1 – primary colours; red, blue, yellow; rouge, blue, jaune

Colour box 2 – secondary and tertiary colours; black, grey, etc.; noir, gris, etc.

Colour box 3 – shades; darker, lighter, darkest, lightest; plus foncé, plus léger, etc.


Sensorial activities, including the colour boxes, appeal to the child’s sensitive period for movement, language and socialization at this young age. The child is invited to explore, manipulate and experience with the senses.


“The senses, being explorers of the world, open the way to knowledge. Our apparatus for educating the senses offers the child a key to guide his explorations of the world, they cast a light upon it which makes visible to him more things in greater detail than he could see in the dark, or uneducated state.”

~Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind

Marie Hui is the Vice Principal of Odyssey Montessori School. She began her tenure with Odyssey as the student teacher in Casa 1. Marie then went on to lead Casa 2 as the Directress for several years. With a love of children and a passion for Montessori, Marie strives to connect parents to the Montessori philosophy - hoping to bridge some gaps between home and school.

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